Enter the dragon
Wednesday,28 December,2011 11:59:19
As I look upon the new year, I try to focus on new possibilities and the hope of things to come.
2012 is the year of the water dragon in the Chinese zodiac. Perhaps that presages the commercial fishing industry wresting some control of its future from a little knoll on the Potomac.
I know we're working to win the hearts and minds with a growing list of fishing reality shows.
This week, the Learning Channel will debut the show "Hook, Line and Sisters" about an Alaska seining family.
The show opens with Sitka herring, so I think it's easy to say the producers know what they're doing.
I love seeing commercial fishing portrayed accurately in mainstream culture, and I have no doubt TLC (a Discovery Networks channel) will do a fair job of representing the life of Alaska seiners. But as the first woman editor of National Fisherman, I particularly enjoy getting the perspectives of women in this industry.
I chatted with Susan Anderson, the matriarch of the family. She, her husband, Dean, and their two daughters, Sierra and Memry, fish a 58-foot seiner. I've also talked with the Anderson girls at Pacific Marine Expo, so I know they're serious about fishing.
I can't wait to see what the salmon season holds for the Anderson family and what 2012 has in store for the commercial fleets across the country.
"Hook, Line and Sisters" premieres Thursday 29 December on TLC.
I'll see you in 2012!
All I want for Christmas...
Friday,23 December,2011 11:45:48
…Is a cod assessment.
The bipartisan pressure is on this holiday season for Secretary of Commerce John Bryson to respond to a recent Northeast cod stock assessment that declares the species severely overfished.
Despite years of attrition in the New England groundfish fleets, fishermen are still paying the price for depleted cod stocks without the long-promised payday.
Gulf of Maine fishermen have long been reporting a return of cod more in line with an optimistic 2008 survey that extended hopes for rebuilding the groundfish stock by 2014.
If nothing else, I hope the assessment helps lawmakers make the case for scientific analysis of the Magnuson rebuilding timeline. Perhaps it's time to look at each fishery individually rather that slapping an all-purpose deadline that truly only hampers fishermen, whether or not the cause of a stock’s decline is fishing related.
(If Santa or anyone in Washington is listening, I’d take a payroll tax-break extension, too.)
Target: wild salmon
Tuesday,20 December,2011 11:44:30
While most of Congress is steadily working toward the megabus solution that will keep the country running, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) was tasked yesterday with the unenviable assignment of hearing testimony on genetically engineered salmon.
I must admit I am baffled that while environmental groups often fight tooth and nail to keep fishermen off the water, we are even debating the possibility of growing genetically engineered fish and mining at the headwaters of the largest sockeye salmon run in the world — Bristol Bay, Alaska. Where is the precautionary approach when you need it?
Pebble Mine and Frankenfish have no place in an eco-conscious country until or unless they are fully vetted and proven to pose no risk to wild populations.
But that's impossible, you might say.
So be it. We do enough tinkering with our ocean habitats simply by overdeveloping our waterfronts and failing to protect the watershed from agricultural runoff.
Add genetically manipulated aquaculture and strip mining to that list, and what chance do the fish have, realistically?
It would only be a matter of time before something unpredictable and detrimental happened.
Why risk it?
We might as well genetically engineer a fish with a target on its back.
How will we manage?
Monday,12 December,2011 10:18:44
The latest International Pacific Halibut Commission allocation proposals for Alaska have rocked fishermen all over the state (and many recreational fishermen across the country who comprise the fishing tourism sector).
The charter halibut fleet likely dodged a bullet by convincing NMFS to delay the catch-sharing plan they had once agreed to. But whatever happens, they will feel the pinch of reduced quotas, as well.
And well they should. But what this news tells me is that there is no fishery management panacea.
Just when you think IFQs or catch shares are the best route for all fisheries, Mother Nature throws you a curve ball. We've seen it in Pacific halibut, Gulf of Mexico gag grouper and possibly even in Northeast cod.
So the question is, what to do?
Well for starters, we have to reel in the power of the advocacy machines that promote only the science and scientists who support their prior headline-news-making studies. Innovation is the only way to keep learning about fishery management, the oceans, the markets and the communities that thrive on working waterfronts.
On the other hand, we don't need to toss out catch shares just because they are not working perfectly. But what we ought to focus on is fixing the problems we have with the systems we have in place before we march full-speed ahead installing a broken system in other fisheries.
Fishery management is a process of action, assessment and reaction. Let's not saw off the third leg of the stool.
Another crossing with Scylla and Charybdis
Tuesday,6 December,2011 13:35:23
I love telling people about our fishery management system and how it works to keep our fisheries healthy, which is no easy task.
But an even heavier burden to bear is that of fishermen whose stock is depleted despite years of arduous efforts to rebuild it. Sometimes, we must accept, fishing effort is not the problem.
Yet, where does that leave fishermen and fishing communities?
In the case of the Northeast groundfish multispecies complex, the answer is: between a rock and a hard place.
This is one of the few examples of failure in our fishery management system. The process as it stands now puts stocks of fish above communities of people.
Magnuson requires depleted fish stocks to be rebuilt within a 10-year window. Yet, in the case of Northeast cod stocks, NFMS' data and severely restrictive fishing guidelines did not prevent a sudden drop in the biomass. (If indeed there is such a drop — how is one to trust one study over another when the findings are so drastically different and unpredictable?)
The 10-year time frame has nothing to do with fishery science and everything to do with a number that sounded nice and round to policymakers. We have enough evidence now that data can be well off the mark, and restricted fishing alone does not solve all fishery woes.
Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) this week proposed changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act that allow for some flexibility around the 10-year mandate.
The question here is not whether we can bring depleted fisheries back to abundance (some will respond well to rebuilding, and some will not; we are not the arbiters of the natural order) but whether we can keep fishing communities thriving through the difficult periods of low stock assessments.
Let's not fall into the trap of assuming a depleted stock is simply an overfished stock. Fishermen want healthy fish populations, too. But they also rely on healthy waterfront communities.