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Thread: 114 tons of wasted Halibut

  1. #1

    Angry 114 tons of wasted Halibut

    Craig Medred | Oct 04, 2011




    The Seattle-based trawler Alaska Beauty recently had a great week of halibut fishing in the Gulf of Alaska, according to the latest reports from the Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Only one problem: Alaska Beauty wasn't supposed to be fishing halibut; it was supposed to be fishing cod.

    Despite that, 43 percent of its catch was halibut. All of that halibut, by law, must be dumped back into the sea. Most of it goes back dead. Some Alaskans are starting to get angry at this sort of large "by-catch" of halibut by Pacific Northwest and Kodiak-based trawlers at a time when the species' stocks are declining, and Alaska charter and commercial longline fisheries are locked in a bitter battle over every flatfish.

    Against that backdrop, the tolerance of halibut waste in the trawl fishery is wrong, critics say. An anonymous blogger who goes by the name of Tholepin has been hitting back hard at the powerful economic interests that largely run the North Pacific Management Council.

    "228,800 pounds of halibut wasted by draggers just last week," Tholepin notes in the latest post. "Value? In cash terms to longliners, about $1.6 million. In lost reproductive potential, in lost growth potential, in long-term resource damage; all unknowns ... but far in excess of the cash value lost. All in one week. Are we sure that is the full extent of the damage? Not at all, as the observer program is badly flawed."

    Alaska Dispatch does not normally cite anonymous blogs, but the numbers and math here are verifiable -- as is the observation on observers.



    Observers have sought more input to the Council, and so far they have been denied. According to Elizabeth Mitchell of the Association for Professional Observers, the Council now tells the "North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program (NPGOP) essentially how, when, where and what to monitor. Observers no longer monitor the fishery and are no longer an independent source of information to monitor commercial fisheries. They're mostly quota trackers these days."

    The Council has run the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea fisheries almost carte blanche for the past two decades, but it suffered a rare rebuff from NOAA earlier this month. NOAA, the federal agency charged with overseeing the Council, raised serious questions a Council plan to restrict Southcentral charter halibut fisheries.

    Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com

  2. #2

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    As a person who had spent time on trawlers, that is a ridiculous amount of halibut. Whoever was at the wheel didn't know what they were doing. Also all that halibut by catch just means the cod fishery season gets closed sooner.

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    I agree the trawlers are allowed to choose which days the observers come along to observe, so it is possible for them to fish the cleanest areas with observer covereage. it will all about politics and not about conservation

  4. #4

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    Bummer. That's a lot of halibut.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by AKCAPT View Post
    I agree the trawlers are allowed to choose which days the observers come along to observe, so it is possible for them to fish the cleanest areas with observer covereage. it will all about politics and not about conservation
    On vessels over 125ft have to have an observer 100% of the time. Under 125ft has to have an observer 1/3 of the fishing time. At 98ft the Alaskan Beauty falls into the 1/3 time. The captains of those vessels have very high tech instruments to help analyze there catch before, during, and after. The bridge of a large trawlers looks like an arcade. They have the ability to lower and raise trawl from the wheelhouse. Any experienced trawler captain knows what their target specie looks like on there sounder ie- cod looks like a hay bail, P.O.P. looks like pinnacles, pollack like clouds in the midwater. I put soul blame on this travesty on the Captain and not the trawler fleet.

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    I believe that article is very inaccurate overall, and does little to help diffuse the emotion of the halibut allocation issue. The allocation issue or the Catch Sharing plan seems to be basis for Meldredís concern based on his last couple sentences regarding the council and the halibut allocation issue. I highly question where Craig Meldred obtained his numbers. The data per boat is simply not available, and is confidential. If the supposed bycatch came in the Gulf it certainly doesnít match the actual data in the link below where a total of 99 metric tons were taken by trawl gear the week before Oct 1.
    http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/2011/car120_goa.pdf


    The legal prohibited species cap (PSC) for the Gulf of Alaska trawl fleet is 2,000 metric tons. So even if there was 114 tons caught by that boat, it was legal, and will be deducted from the total. The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (council) is also moving forward on tying that PSC to biomass levels. Halibut bycatch reduction by the trawlers and longliners not targeting Halibut will soon be a reality more than likely. I believe to bring the issue of the bycatch up, but not also mention that fact shows the article is simply trying to be inflammatory.

    AKCAPT what you said has some basis in reality. If the seasons lasted for a long time it could be a larger issue. However, the observer effect is well known, and Iím pretty sure itís accounted for in most cases. Also a lot of the trawl fisheries are very short, and the vessels end up taking observers when they are available, and before the season closes. Even the 30% (the under 125 foot length overall) trawl fleet has 100% observer coverage fishing Rockfish. Other fisheries such as P. Cod, Pollock, and flatfish the issue you brought up is real, but the boat still has to make money. It will fish as clean as possible, but still has to fish. There are only so many observers, and the vessels have to obtain coverage, and the seasons only last so long. The observer effect will also be dealt with in the New Observer Restructuring Plan that is also moving forward through the council. The coverage levels will increase as well given a Chinook Bycatch cap appears very likely to be enacted for next year.

    So the entire article is bogus. Iím fairly sure it was made up by Mr. Meldred to create a flurry for his current championship of the guided charter fleet. I think his kind of rumormongering does in fact harm our management of our fisheries. I believe bycatch should be reduced, and it has to be balanced by its use. I think the Council by and large is doing excellent work. I think the data in general is very sound and much better than any available anywhere else in the world. I challenge people to inform themselves. I have tons of good links available for actual real data if anyone wants.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Akbrownsfan View Post
    I believe that article is very inaccurate overall, and does little to help diffuse the emotion of the halibut allocation issue. The allocation issue or the Catch Sharing plan seems to be basis for Meldredís concern based on his last couple sentences regarding the council and the halibut allocation issue. I highly question where Craig Meldred obtained his numbers. The data per boat is simply not available, and is confidential. If the supposed bycatch came in the Gulf it certainly doesnít match the actual data in the link below where a total of 99 metric tons were taken by trawl gear the week before Oct 1.
    http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/2011/car120_goa.pdf
    When I clicked on the link "Bycatch Rate Data", I downloaded a spread sheet full of info, including boat names, etc.
    http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/2011/pscinfo.htm

    Do you think that is where the info is coming from?

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    That is a cool link 20ti, thanks. I am looking at it though, and can't yet find the Alaska Beauty. So if you can find where it says they caught 114 tons I guess you can obtain information per boat. I didn't know that link before now. I am always willing to learn. I don't know what the numbers for the halibut PSC rates actually mean do you? I'd like to know. thanks.

    So I was incorrect regarding if Meldred could obtain that number and apologize, however it does little about the rest of what I wrote. The PSC is still what it is from what I see on the link I had. Do you think that number is wrong?

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    found it, very cool link again. Thanks!

    HALIBUT Numeric 10 3 kg halibut per mt of groundfish



    post edit- Some neat links on that page too. However, unless there is another link showing how much each one of those boats caught it still doesn't say how much actual halibut any of those boats caught. I am pretty sure it's just a rate of bycatch as a kilogram per metric ton of catch from what I see above and in the link so you need to know the amount of catch........and I'm pretty sure that is confidential. So I think I'm still on track with my comments regarding how Mr. Meldred obtained his data. I could be wrong though. Thanks again for that link, it's very neat.

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    Ok help me with my math here. Is that 114tons = 11,400 20lb fish?? Can that much damage be done in one week by one ship??

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    Where are you getting a 20lb average? I thought it was much smaller than that, but haven't seen any actual number in print anywhere other than a blog.

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    270 I am not saying they were a 20lb avg! i am asking if it was that many fish if they were all 20lbs if they were 10lbs each that would be 22,800 fish correct? my point is that is a he#* of a lot of fish!

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    roger, I understand you now.

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    Dammit, I wish I could have a small portion of that!

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    There has been about 14,500 metric tons (or about 28,000 tons using pounds) of Pacific Cod harvested in the GOA since September 1, 2011. How many Pacific Cod is that if they were 8 pounds on average?

    http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/2011/car111_goa.pdf

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    Default Maybe a bit of clarification is needed

    According to the spreadsheet, the Alaska Beauty caught 430 Kg of halibut per metric ton of fish caught during the week ending 9/24, for a 43 per cent bycatch rate over the course of 5 observed hauls. Maybe in all fairness it's important to note that the only other week the boat was reported to have fished (week ending 9/3) it had 3 hauls and a zero % halibut bycatch rate.

    While 43% is an alarming bycatch rate, it is not representative of the trawl fleet as a whole. The second worst trawler the week ending 9/24 had a 23% halibut bycatch rate. It drops off from there, with the 10th worst offender having a halibut bycatch rate of only 6%. If you look at all trawlers since Jan. 1 you find that the average is just under 10 Kg Halibut per metric ton of target species. That's 1% halibut bycatch. And without actual numbers per boat, it's impossible to quantify individual boats' impact on the bycatch quota.


    • One issue would be: Why is the halibut bycatch quota set at 2,000 metric tons in the first place? (As of last week they had another 780 tons of halibut bycatch allotment remaining.)
    • A second might be: Why are the other trawlers that fish more cleanly at the mercy of a handful of boats that fish dirty? In other words, should there be a way to exclude individual boats from a fishery if they exceed a certain percentage of bycatch per target catch? If you look at the data, you'll see that it truly is a relative handful of boats that are exceeding 10% bycatch, and even they don't do it on a consistent basis.


    A couple notes:

    • The halibut bycatch for the week in the GOA was 104 MT, not 114. That's 22,000 pounds less. Medred's article's headline appears to be in error.
    • It appears that the 104 MT of halibut was for the fleet as a whole, not for a single boat, which makes Medred's headline and, even worse, his entire article misleading. There were a number of other boats participating in the trawl fishery, and not all were targeting p.cod. Which, of course, makes the article appear to be more grandstanding than factual reporting.


    The catch reports at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/2011/2011.htm show target species catch data for entire regions through October 1 (including remaining quota), but they don't break it down by boat, as was noted above. There might be another link that gives that info, but I haven't found it.

    (Lots of info on the NOAA fisheries site, but boy, does it take patience to find it... By the way, if you want to see 2010 bycatch data, change 2011 to 2010 in the NOAA link: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/2011/pscinfo.htm. It gives you the data for the entire year through 12/31/10.)

    I tried to be accurate here in quoting numbers. If I made any errors, I'll hope someone will correct me. Thanks.

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    Oops, I just noticed that the 104 MT number I quoted was at odds with the 99 MT number akbrownsfan cited. I think he's probably correct on that number. I took my number from tholepin's blog and didn't read alaskabrownsfan's post thoroughly. Sorry for the apparent error.

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    Get your eyes out of that spotting scope and take a look at the bigger picture:

    The trawling fleet is wasting too many tons of halibut. If they're already dead they should be retained and donated to hungry Alaskans. And cutting the charter fleet's limit by 50 percent while this continues to go on is just plain ridiculous.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by FamilyMan View Post
    Get your eyes out of that spotting scope and take a look at the bigger picture:

    The trawling fleet is wasting too many tons of halibut. If they're already dead they should be retained and donated to hungry Alaskans. And cutting the charter fleet's limit by 50 percent while this continues to go on is just plain ridiculous.
    What, you don't think the trawlers would like to sell the halibut at even a fraction of the price? They can't retain prohibited bycatch because that's the law. No crab, no halibut, no salmon. I don't see that as a fault to the fisherman. Say they can keep it and give it away for free, who eats up the processing/ shipping costs? All fishing, sport and commercial has by catch. It's not like charter boats have observers on board to record accurate catch and bycatch numbers. I am sure there are charter boats and private boats that have unnecessarily plowed through bycatch in the quest of their own target species. Now commercial boats catch alot of fish so their bycatch numbers will be large. It would be interesting to get accurate, observer obtained data, and compare bycatch data. But I don't think charter boats want to pay for an observer, even for 1/3 of their fishing time like commercial guys have too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Franken Fish View Post
    What, you don't think the trawlers would like to sell the halibut at even a fraction of the price? They can't retain prohibited bycatch because that's the law.
    Obviously, I'm taking the side of changing the law. Changing the law is our lawmaker's duty, and I'm suggesting a specific course for them to take. My understanding of this forum is that it is about sharing constructive ideas; I've stated mine.

    I'm not trash-talking anyone; I'm suggesting that this situation be legally amended to improve all of our outcomes.

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