Fishing is a fickle beast
Wednesday,18 July,2012 09:41:39
Another week, another seafood glut, another strike.
Salmon fishermen in northern California have been enjoying a bountiful season of king salmon returns. It’s a true blessing after three years of shutdowns and minimal openings, but the blessing has become a curse.
Last week, some fishermen tied up to create more demand and improve their boat price, but they haven't seen the effects yet. Most fishermen are getting half what they were before the San Francisco fleet started loading up in fishing-friendly weather in recent weeks. But in many fish markets, the retail price remains the same.
Maybe a tie-up will help the processors clear their lines and create incentive to pay the fishermen a bit better for their premium product. This is the kind of processing politics that has many fishermen looking for direct access to their markets. But after years of shutdowns, it’s not easy to reopen those channels.
It’s a shame that West Coast fishermen finally have what they’ve been waiting for but they can't afford to go fish for them. The best I can do right now is cross my fingers for them and enjoy some fresh California king salmon.
Care to join me?
Monday,16 July,2012 09:51:04
It’s summertime in Vacationland, so all should be fine and dandy. In fact, so far, this is one of the most spectacular summers I can remember.
But today is Friday the 13th, and vacationers headed toward the state face a frightening prospect, indeed. Maine lobstermen are threatening to leave their traps in the water, thereby ending the glut of lobster that has reduced its price below the bologna threshold at about USD 2.50 a pound.
According to NPR, the Maine Department of Marine Resources has fielded calls from lobstermen asking the state to shut down the fishery — an action for which they don't have authority.
But in the end, the market will sort itself out, much to the short-term delight of lobster eaters and the dismay of lobstermen. If it's not worth the dock price of lobster to go fishing, they'll let their traps soak until the glut has eased. I just hope the weather holds so they can at least enjoy the summer weather during their forced, unpaid vacation.
The West Coast also has some auspicious news for a Friday the 13th, regarding the federal budget in 2013, no less.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is scheduled to cut its commercial fishing program — a significant part of the NIOSH Alaska Pacific Office and one that has made a tremendous difference in commercial fishing safety nationwide in recent years — as a result of budget cuts to the overarching Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing Program.
The same program was threatened in the 2012 budget, but was spared when the public and legislators came to its defense.
It’s time to speak for NIOSH and fishing safety again. Call your legislators, and ask them to make sure the USD 1.5 million allocation is reinstated. It’s a small price to save lives.
Thursday,5 July,2012 08:53:33
This Fourth of July week, the biggest display of fireworks may well be at the NMFS' Seattle office of law enforcement. The boom could be heard in February when a report from Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser revealed alleged misuse of funds gleaned from fishing fines within the agency, including the purchase of a USD 300,000 luxury yacht that some agents were using for social outings.
But the light show didn’t begin until mid-May when NMFS reportedly abruptly replaced the regional law enforcement chief, Vicki Nomura, reassigned her to the agency’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., and began conducting a review of her office’s activities.
What remains to be seen is whether this investigation reveals more abuses and what will be done to rectify the damages.
In the Northeast, NMFS and NOAA have thus far fallen flat on calling abusers to the carpet. In fact, purchase of the boat was approved by Dale Jones Jr., then director of law enforcement for NMFS. Jones is now wrapped up in fine-abuse scandals on both coasts. Yet, he remains a NOAA employee, having been shifted into a position that pays more than USD150,000 a year.
The inspector general deserves praise for unearthing these abuses. But what's the point of exposing them if the only “punishment” is to reassign to well-compensated positions the high-level officials under whom widespread corruption appears to have been status quo? It’s all sound and no fury.
The oceans may need some help, but NMFS law enforcement has to be treading some of the nation’s murkiest waters.
Meanwhile, those of us who keep our eyes on the industry are waiting for the grand finale.
Cape Codder, with a twist
Tuesday,3 July,2012 12:29:29
I was delighted this week to learn that William (Bill) Karp received his official appointment to head NMFS’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass.
Karp has been serving as acting director of the science center since January, and in that time, he has recognized the challenges that face the New England cod fleet, as well as the science behind the trawl surveys.
He also worked at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle for 25 years, so Karp is not only no stranger to fishery science and survey methods, but he had a leading role in a premier fishery science center with some of the most respected methods and data in the country and the world. In fact, Karp was a leader in making the transition from acoustic to digital systems at the Alaska science center.
This all bodes well for fishermen in the purview of the Northeast science center, from the Gulf of Maine to Cape Hatteras, N.C., including groundfish fishermen who are pleading for improvements to survey methods.
I wish the best to Dr. Karp and his colleagues. The road ahead is long, but the rewards include the prospect of rescuing a piece of national history.
Karp’s office is, after all, based on Cape Cod. Now let’s makes sure it’s a name and a fishery that stand the test of time.