By last count I have heard trawlers in the GOA (Gulf of Alaska) had an observered by catch of some 40.000 kings. In the berring sea the numbers are hidiously more. God knows how many were un-observed. In Kodiak waters trawlers are allowed to fish inside the closed schooling areas for salmon durring salmon season. There is no cap on their salmon by catch and they just as easily might be Kenai fish as Kodiak fish. Kodiak BOF proposals 38-39 partially address this outragious waste. Check it out and particpate they are your fish too.

Kodiak Daily Mirror

Advisory panel hiding behind minor flaws in observer program
Article published on Friday, December 14th, 2007
Guest Opinion
On Saturday Dec. 8, 2007, a majority of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Advisory Panel (including our Kodiak members) voted down any action on crab and salmon bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska. By seizing on weaknesses in observer data they effectively sidestepped the issue of unacceptable bycatch and settled for a call for a better observer program.

While everyone agrees the observer program needs repairs to generate more robust data, the current program is the only data used for managing our fisheries. One AP member condemned the observer program as a “joke,” and voted against bycatch reduction knowing full well fixing the observer program will take another few years at least to implement. The AP voted 12 to 4 to allow wasteful practices to continue to threaten these struggling populations of Gulf chinook salmon and Tanner crab.

Tanner crabs are especially vulnerable when they “ball up” in important crab habitat. An unintended trawl tow or two on high concentrations has huge ramifications on population dynamics.

Chinook salmon are vulnerable to trawl gear as they join the chase for prey during their voracious feeding, being swept up with a mix of catch. Both the Karluk and the Ayakulik systems suffered severe escapement failures this season.

The true extent of bycatch remains a dirty secret in the Gulf. It is widely acknowledged by all involved that skippers manipulate bycatch reporting by taking observers on trips that are not representative of normal fishing practices. Excessive unobserved bycatch continues to be the spectre haunting our fishing futures. Unless the vested interests of our fleets come clean on bycatch issues and are willing to support transparent oversight of our catches, good management of Gulf groundfish fisheries remains an impossible dream. But finding ways to lower these bycatches should proceed, while we wait for 100 percent reliable data.

Prudent management demands action on the last 10 years of best data available — however imperfect it may be — to curtail bycatch. The management tools are within reach. They were clearly available in the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s staff report on options. But the majority of the AP simply lacked the foresight and courage to even explore these options. The AP turned its back on a plea from more than 150 Kodiak fishermen for remedies to this crab and salmon bycatch and they did it by exploiting weaknesses in the observer program and creating a place to hide.

The double standard is glaring. When bycatch estimates support more fishing they are celebrated as valid, but when they call into question wasteful fishing practices, they are ignored as a joke. It was a sad day for the Gulf. As Tom Waits said, “Everything has its price, everything has its place.”

Dave Kubiak has lived in Kodiak since 1964. He has fished herring, salmon, crab, halibut and cod. He wa a teacher at Kodiak High School for 22 years. He currently fishes halibut and cod.