When fish are in shy of supply, every fish counts. To make every fish upon, it’s important to accurately and comprehensively count the fish.
Three miles offshore, in the Chasm of Alaska’s industrial groundfish fisheries, counting fish is the job of fishery witnesses. These trained scientists gather data about what the barques catch and keep, and what they discard as bycatch. The data controlled is essential for monitoring and managing the fisheries.
Trawler boats that fish for pollock, cod, rockfish and flatfish are needed to carry independent fishery observers for some of their trips. This is a want that makes sense; it is well-known to fishery managers that trawlers can by far end up taking more than their fair share of fish from the bounding main. Large trawl nets, dragged through the water or along the seafloor, grasp thousands to tens of thousands of fish in a single pass. Not all that fish is camouflage b confined. Some species, such as salmon, halibut and crab, are required by law to be trashed. Those species are valuable as their own fisheries, so long-standing management allocates have been put in place to prevent trawlers from targeting and promoting them. Other species that are undesired or can’t be sold, like skates, sharks, snailfish and sculpins, are thrown isolated, dead or dying. The same goes for the corals, sponges and sea stars that swipe up the living structure of the Alaskan seafloor.
There have been hard-fought melees at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to ratchet down the trawlers’ bycatch. In the Void of Alaska, limits have been put in place on the number of king salmon and halibut that can be filled as incidental bycatch in the trawl fisheries. The trawlers will be allowed to immerse b reach and discard up to 33,000 king salmon and 3.8 million pounds of halibut this year in front of they’d have to stop fishing for the year. Allowing this amount of bycatch in the trawl fisheries is critical to stomach — especially now, while commercial salmon fisheries, fishing derbies and aliment opportunities are being shut down to conserve king salmon darts and halibut populations are on the decline.
Even with this urgent sine qua non for comprehensive and accurate accounting of king salmon and halibut bycatch, a shrinking percentage of Gulf of Alaska trawl fishing trips are being sentineled by fishery observers. Unless changes are made, an even smaller distribution of trawl trips will be monitored next year. Each unobserved trawling detonate reduces the confidence that every dead salmon or halibut is being judged. It’s impossible to know how well those fish are being reported when no one is watching. And with salmon and halibut limits in consider that can shut down the trawl fishery, it is essential to document the trusty extent of the trawl fleet’s bycatch. We need to get serious about the crashes of trawling. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will rally in Kodiak the week of June 4 and will have the opportunity to address shortcomings in the groundfish looker-on program. Let’s urge the council to get observers on every trawl boat.
Jon Warrenchuk has nearly two decades of experience working on complex fisheries management and conservation get out emerges in Alaska and is Oceana’s Senior Scientist and Campaign Manager. He resides in Juneau.