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Salmon By Catch Irony

Thu, 03 Feb 2011 00:20:38 +0000

(image) I am in Seattle Washington attending the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) meeting, now on my third day. I should be here until super bowl Sunday unless the meetings speed up on their agenda and we are done early. If not, I will be flying home during the game, and so my loss. The Council, amongst the slew of issues common in all their agenda's: Bering Sea/Aleutian Island Pacific Cod fishery; Steller Sea lion; Amendment 80 Program; and others is the ever present problem of Chinook and Chum Salmon by catch issues in the billion dollar a year pollock fishery.So, the ever-present problem of salmon by catch. The Council took up the issue of chinook/king salmon problem in the Bering Sea pollock fishery last year by saying, if I can get this right, that the pollock fishers are allowed to catch up to 47,000 king salmon, and if that's reached, then to 60,000 king salmon hard cap. Something like that. Now the Council is struggling with how to limit, if possible, the amount of chum salmon caught in that same fishery. In 2005, the pollock fishers caught an estimated 705,963 chum salmon, which at an average weight of 15 pounds per fish, equals a total of 10,589,445 pounds of fish that were discarded and thrown back into the ocean as waste. To be far, the total amount of chum salmon caught as by catch in 2008 were down to 15,423 fish that shows some improvement in lessening the loss of these fish, or seafood. It is also estimated that 50% of these fish are from Asia coming from aquaculture facilities.There are several ironies to this problem. One is, chum and chinook don't migrate and feed together, as far as we know when they are out in the ocean. Chinook stay out in the ocean an average of 5 years while chum stay about 4 years maturing before they return to the stream they were born in to spawn. And so they remain separate while maturing. The pollock fishers know from experience where to fish for pollock but do not know where each species feed and mature. And so the problem. If we fish over here we might catch hundreds of chinook while if we fish over there, chums.Part of the three recommended solutions to cut down on the amount of salmon by catch is to do what is called “rolling hot-spots.” That is, if too many salmon are caught over here, the area will be shut down so the pollock fishers have to move to another location to continue fishing. And so the fishers move and hope they will have better luck in this new area. Part of the problem is that should the pollock fishers catch a third of the total allowable numbers of salmon in one area, and the total amount for that area is not met, they can use up the difference in that new area. It can be confusing, but basically if the total amount of by catch salmon is, lets say, 40,000 fish, then 40,000 fish it is, rather than saving the fish and not destroying them. How is this conservation? The other irony seems to be: saving fish so that we can catch more fish?So, off to the salt mines trying to understand this mess. If you think you know what all this means, please let me know. I will be happy to take the time to read your comments. Geee, I hope I make it home for the super bowl.GeorgeIn Seattle at the NPFMC meetings.



Steller Sea Lions meet more Protections

Sat, 09 Oct 2010 16:09:56 +0000

(image) Steller Sea Lions meet more ProtectionsThe Steller Sea Lion (SSL) of the North Pacific have been in danger of extinction, depletion or as a threatened species for a long time. As Unangan people who live on the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands and depend heavily upon the health of our environment for our continued survival, we have witnessed this almost daily as we go about our business. Finally, after years, and in some cases, decades, of trying to bring focus to the plight of the SSL, some relief has finally arrived by way of Federal Fisheries Management decisions. The National Marine Fisheries Service, (NMFS) an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) U.S. Department of Commerce, has submitted a final report to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) in a meeting in Anchorage Alaska, that the overall health of the SSL is critical to a healthy ecosystem. Finally, NMFS biologists have taken a strong stand against the wishes of the pro commercial fisheries Council that the Biological Opinion (BiOp) they submitted last August would take precedence over commercial fishing demands and protect the SSL. This decision helps to protect the SSL of the Western most population of the Aleutian Islands by closing all waters down to Pacific cod and Atka mackrel commercial fishing to ensure the SSL have enough food to grow their population to healthy levels. This decision, however helpful to this population of SSL in the Western Aleutians, is still lacking many other mitigating factors while still not dealing with the other populations of SSL in the Central and Eastern Aleutian Island regions. These SSL populations are still in jeopardy of becoming listed for protections under the Endangered Species Act. But we have a good beginning. In their report to the Council, NMFS said that they had received upwards of 10,000 comments on their BiOp, the majority requesting the critical need to protect this population of SSL. Personally, I am honored to have been working with Greenpeace as a person of Unangan descent for the past six years on these issues of the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean. My people have survived here for almost 10,000 years and I feel some vindication in our efforts to finally come so close to victory. Unfortunately there is a but to this statement. But we have so much more to do. The food upon which the SSL depend the most is still in jeopardy of becoming depleted. The Walleye pollock of the Bering Sea is the number one prey food for the SSL and the many other mammals and birds of this critical and sensitive habitat, and yet very little is being done to lower the amount being caught by the commercial fishers. Currently 850,000 metric tons are still being taken out every year from this shrinking ecosystem still causing harmful impacts that need to be mitigated. Our work is not even close to being done. I just noticed the two coincidental numbers cited above, of 10,000 letters and 10,000 years of survival for my people. Wonder if it is coincidence; one letter for each year of our continual presence in this place we call home. Without your vigilance; without your concern; without your determination, both the Unangan and the SSL may have just gone away quietly forever, never again given a second thought. Thank you all from our ancestors and our cousins of the ocean for your support and help. We have another day to keep fighting to both protect ourselves and our home, the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean.



Steller Sea Lion and the Tribal Community

Tue, 20 Jul 2010 23:45:52 +0000

(image) Discussing the plight of the Steller sea lion (SSL) can be a very emotional issue because of how it impacts both the subsistence and commercial activities that Tribal Communities (TCs) may be dependent upon. However, it is worth noting that the listing of the SSL as an endangered species on the Endangered Species Act was an action taken by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and not Greenpeace.In its document “Recovery Plan for the Steller Sea Lion, March 2008,” the NMFS concluded that: “The threat posed by competition with fisheries was ranked high by some members of the team based on the potential for fisheries to out-compete sea lions for similar prey (e.g., walleye pollock, Atka mackerel, Pacific cod) subsequently leading to lower sea lion carrying capacity.”The federally mandated Recovery Plan summarizes the current scientific knowledge about the overall health of the Steller sea lion, most likely causes of their decline, and measures necessary to help the population recover:http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/recovery/stellersealion.pdfGreenpeace has been concerned about the overall health of the entire Bering Sea/Gulf of Alaska ecosystem for many years. The industry is now demanding that the Northern Bering Sea Area, that area between St. Matthew Island and the Bering Straight be opened for commercial fishing activities. Part of their rational is climate change. We need to thoroughly understand what impacts the trawl fishery activities have had on the Southern Bering Sea Eco Region before other now relatively pristine areas of our ocean, heretofore closed, are opened to these destructive fishing activities. We want to be very clear that neither Greenpeace nor any of its employees are empowered to speak for or on behalf of any Tribal Community. When statements are made by Greenpeace regarding TCs, Greenpeace takes its lead from Tribal Resolutions. These Resolutions were approved and passed by The Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Convention of 2009, the largest Alaska Statewide Native Organization. At the same time, The Alaska InterTribal Council (AITC) passed similar Resolutions during its Convention in 2009. These Resolutions raise strong concerns about the destructive nature of trawl fisheries operating in the Gulf of Alaska, the Bering Sea and now in the Northern Bering Sea Regions.While Greenpeace appreciates any and all responses from the TC throughout Alaska on our activities and positions, we understand that each TC is different. For example, one TC may have large economic fishery development infrastructure and is heavily dependent upon its commerce while another, in the same region, is more dependent on subsistence use and therefore a more traditional TC.We are dealing with endangered species, the depleted northern fur seal populations, and other declines in the animal populations, but also the devastating destruction of salmon bycatch which is having a huge impact on Western Alaska Tribal Communities. NMFS needs to take a more holistic view of an ecosystem approaching total collapse from all its human impacts and implement a more precautionary management approach. After all, the First Nations are heavily dependent upon these waters for our survival. The activity of some impacts the whole. -- George Pletnikoff



"Good Try, George."

Sun, 06 Jun 2010 18:32:23 +0000

(image) What an interesting meeting with Royal Dutch Shell here on the shores of the Beaufort Sea, still frozen with ice, in Kaktovik Alaska. Representatives from Shell were huddled in the cafeteria of the hotel owned by Kaktovik Inupiak Corporation trying to tell us their understandings and technology is top notch and extremely safe. They want to begin drilling in the Beaufort beginning in 2011. As Robert Thompson of Kaktovik announced that he is walking out of the meeting with all due respect to the representatives of Shell Oil in protest almost all of the thirty or so local people stood up and began leaving as NBC News filmed the exodus. I too joined the protest. Ms. Susan Childs, the meeting moderator, stood at the door thanking everyone as we left. When it was my turn to exit she touched me on my shoulder and said: “Good try George.” I simply responded thank you as I did not hear her clearly and left. Immediately in front of me was several young students visiting Kaktovik from Washington State. One of the young men immediately turned around and said to me: “Good try? I thought you did a good job.” I guess, meaning I must have asked good questions and made several good comments. “Good try, George.” What does that mean and why did she make that statement? I guess she felt I had an agenda other than the one I felt I had. I asked about the safety of their work; the difference between shallow water drilling and deepwater drilling; how they were going to compensate the local people when a spill occurs. Because for all intents and purposes, the spill has already happened, at least here in Kaktovik. When one considers all the stress, anxiety, worry and grave concerns the people have been going through and are now dealing with in a heightened sense of the impending destruction to their homes and cultures, not to mention to their foods, they are already dealing with a spill. Was this a “good try George?” When I further made a statement agreeing with the coordinator's explanation about being ready for wildlife clean up and restoration response to a spill and asked how they were going to deal with dirty people, meaning people dirtied by the spill, was this a “good try George?” Because the people, the Inupiats of Kaktovik and other Arctic Ocean villages are already suffering from so much anxiety and worry that their spirits are weakening to the point of saying, “What's the use. They never listen to us anyway! Why should we come to any more of these meetings?” Let's hope they do not lose hope. Let's show them our support and let them know we hear their worries and concerns. Let's help them. I have never visited Kaktovik before this trip. I have never seen the Arctic Ocean before this trip. But I have to confess, this is a magical place. Its amazing to look out over the still frozen Arctic Ocean and wonder about its wealth in terms of wildlife. It is amazing to stand on the shores of the Beaufort Sea, when all I have even done before now was talk about it in imaginary terms. I have come and I have seen. I have been thanked by so many local people at the meeting for being here. I was told by Shell Oil: “Good try George.” And yes, I now say, good try, because I hope we never give up trying to help our people and their lands.



It Never Ends...

Wed, 19 May 2010 19:03:01 +0000

During the Summer of 2007 I was fortunate enough to travel on Greenpeace's wonderful vessel, the Esperanza. As we left Homer Alaska to begin our two-month journey into the Bering Sea, my home, we made a quick stop at Port Graham in Kachamak Bay in the southern Cook Inlet. This was a blessing for me in many ways, mostly because it was one of my Parishes in my other life for eight years! Port Graham was also one of the many Alaskan Native Villages severely impacted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989. Here is some of what I learned during this visit.May 15, 2010 - Dr. Erica Miller, a member of the Louisiana State Wildlife Response Team, cleanses a pelican of oil at the Clean Gulf Associates Mobile Wildlife Rehabilitation Station on Ft. Jackson in Plaquemines Parish, La. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg/Released)Read more latest news about the BP Deepwater Disaster, view more pics, and take action to prevent the next oil spillWe arrived in Port Graham and immediately visited one of the Tribal Council's most respected elders, Eleanor. She had so many stories to tell that if we had stayed for a whole day we would not have heard them all, so she chose a few important to what we were doing. One of the statements she made regarding the impacts of the oil spill was, “It never ends….never goes away.” And to this day I am deep in thought over those words. What did she mean? Why did she say that?She said that her grandchildren, born right around that time in 1989-90, were lost children. Lost because they would not know what it means to go hunting, fishing or berry-picking and gather food, their traditional food, and share it with the village. They did not know, nor would they ever experience, the joy of giving a five-gallon bucket of clams to the elders in the village, the shear goodness of carrying on this long-standing and sacred tradition. They would not know the blessings of capturing a harbor seal for food - not killing the animal but rather receiving it from the animal itself as a gift to them. They would not know the experience of bringing the animal to the beach and ceremoniously thanking the animal, and returning unused parts of the animal back to the sea. They would not know that respecting the seal and all foods in this way and returning parts of it back to the sea was a respectful thank you. They would not know the certainty that the animal will return once again to offer itself as a gift to the village as food. They only would hear stories of how it was done once and what it means.Eleanor continued to speak in a way that only a suffering grandma can speak: in slow, quiet, well-chosen words peppered with patience and longing. She continued: "My grandchildren will not know the joy of being hungry and exhausted following one of these food gathering journeys so familiar to those of us blessed to have been born at a different time. When one gathers food in such a manner, creating an unmistakable tie to centuries of ancestors, doing what they did in a manner considered the only way to do it, it opens thoughts and feelings in the mind and heart one can only experience by doing these activities. They will not know this. And the exhaustion, the hunger can only be granted by following these traditions, feelings granted by our ancestors because of our efforts. This is not suffering. This is real connection to life, to holy things. They will not know this."“It never ends,” she concluded. “These generations of young people cannot experience these gifts because they have grown older and these things can only be done at a certain age, at certain places, at certain times and certain seasons.” The forlorn sounds and expressions in her voice and deeply in her eyes said it all. They are lost. This is a part of what the oil giant Exxon spewed upon an ancient people. Not only was the environmental disaster totally destructive to the ocea[...]