Charlie Pierce: Poorly managed bycatch is an Alaska tragedy

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By CHARLIE PIERCE

During my visits with communities throughout Alaska a number of concerns are discussed.  One major concern, common to many communities is the effect of lax and dismissed enforcement of commercial fishing “Bycatch” rules by our current administration.

Before going further, let me tell you the truth about  that cute term “Bycatch.” 

Around the world it is called  “discarded and killed fish.”  “Bycatch” is a NOAA-created, feel-good phrase embraced by the Alaska Administration to make it sound like it’s no big deal.  Politicians playing games with words.

The effect of poorly managed and loose regulations regarding fishing “Bycatch” has ramifications around the whole State of Alaska:  from the sport fisherman hoping to catch that prized king salmon, to the halibut fisherman simply trying to bring home a tasty meal, to the commercial salmon boat trying to earn a living, to the commercial crabber bringing up an empty pot and to the commercial halibut boat trying to harvest one of Alaska’s food resources.  

Alaskan fishermen from Nome to Bristol Bay, to the Cook Inlet to Kodiak, to Cordova to Ketchikan, to the Yukon-Kuskowim  subsistence  and all coastal communities suffer the effects of “Bycatch” policy failures.

What do they all have in common?  Simply put, catcher vessels and  factory trawlers disposing of Alaska’s natural resource, our seafood. Why?  Because of old and lax laws regarding the “Unintended Bycatch” and killing of a treasured resource, our Alaska fish.

As your Governor, I will stand behind our sport, subsistence and directed commercial fisheries ( species-specific fishing) and the Alaska businesses they support.  My administration will use all state resources available, legal and regulatory to stop this travesty and anti-Alaska fishing ByCatch industry.

Did you know?  Halibut reproduce when they grow to around 8 pounds, yet the bottom trawlers kill and discard them at about 5 pounds. Killing the babies before they can reproduce is tantamount to genocide of the Halibut fish species. All sanctioned by the current State Administration and done in the name of increasing the financial bottom line of  the Mostly Seattle based industrial trawl fleet. 

Yes, the current administration has started a “committee” to review this problem. Do you know what the most used words in the committee are?

How about “should” “underway” “exploring” “evaluate” “monitor” “continue to explore” “discuss”

Not once was there a mention of  “DO”, “NOW” or just plain “FIX IT.”

There are ways to stop the destruction of the Alaska fishing industry.  Sound management and a Governor that cares.  A Pierce administration will not accept rhetoric, I will demand results.  

So who are those holding back and destroying our precious resource?  The Alaskan public-NO?

Politicians receiving money to turn a blind eye? YES,  And YES, mostly out of state companies with off shore trawler processing vessels, provide that money while they prioritize short term profit over protecting our fishing resource.

What can we do immediately?

  • A Pierce Administration: will require the use of electronic surveillance monitoring on a 24/7 basis.
  • A Pierce Administration: will impose taxes on out-of-state operations equal to the full value of the “Bycatch” of all species and use that to support Alaska based fishery enterprises.
  • A Pierce Administration: will work with Congress and demand a 9-mile state water limit with no bottom trawling. 
  • A Pierce Administration: will create a stepped-down approach which reduces bycatch year to year; until bycatch reaches a level which allows Alaskans to once again enjoy full and historical sport, subsistence, and directed commercial fisheries limits.

Plus, we will deploy other methods available, on a priority basis using today’s data and action now.

These actions, with the appointment of individuals to the NPFMC who understand their one and only job is “Alaskans First” will make a difference.

Ask your politicians, ask the candidates, ask the governor. 

Have you taken money from mostly Out of state seafood processor groups?  What have you done to help Alaska?  Not words, but results.

Charlie Pierce has not and will not accept the tainted donations from parties that seek to destroy our Alaska fishing resource.  

I will work to reduce trawl “bycatch” and save Alaska’s sport and commercial industries.  My administration will not talk about saving Alaska’s fish resources, we will take action to protect Alaska.

Results not Rhetoric will put “Alaskans First” and restore our right to fish the waters of Alaska without the destructive interference of outside “predators” while retaining the integrity and livelihood of our fishing fleets and their on-deck workers.

You can count on me, Charlie Pierce and a Governor Pierce administration to put “Alaskans First.”

20 COMMENTS

  1. It is clear that Pierce knows very little about this subject. The vast majority of the bycatch he is rightly criticizing is caught in federal waters by federally licensed vessels operating under federal regulations. The State has very little influence over these regulations or over the vessels being used to catch the fish in federal waters.
    Pierce appears unaware that federal regulations already require Observers or electronic monitoring. He calls it “surveillance”. The observer program
    is often criticized for being gamed by the large fisher / catcher vessels and not all the bycatch is counted. The reason is that once a bycatch limit is reached the fishery in that area and for that species closes. Nice incentive to count the bycatch at night when the observer is asleep, right? But again Pierce’s criticism of the Dunleavy administration is misplaced. This a regulation passed by the NPFMC ( a federal commission made up mostly from stakeholders involved in the fishery. Like the fox in charge of the chicken house.
    Pierce’s threats to do what he claims he will are just political grandstanding. The current Governor is doing all he can to slow this wasteful bycatch. But it is handicapped by not having jurisdiction in most cases.
    If Pierce was serious about wanting to stop bycatch using authority he would have, he would start with the elimination of the Chinook harvest by the Kenai commercial Gil net fleets. Nothing is said by Pierce about that little dirty secret. And to
    even mention it would alienate some of his constituents. Can’t have that!

    • The Pierce commentary and position is factual, your objection is the same paid for by outside of state trolls he is against.
      Stealing the Pierce “Alaskans First” moniker to state your anti-Alaskan opinion is pathetic.

      • Moose. What did I say that is not factual. Do you really think that an Alaska Governor can do anything to eliminate the by catch be federally licensed vessels being operated under federal regulations passed fly a federal commission. What might be “pathetic “ is your inability to point out where what I said was not factual.

        • Yes, an Alaska Governor could do a LOT to address trawler bycatch in Alaska. For instance, direct the Limited Entry Commission to raise the gear license fees for the trawl fleet to reflect the true value of their fisheries and stop allowing multimillion dollar vessels to pay a pittance to Alaska in licensing fees while profiting tens of millions of dollars & sticking it to the Alaskan small boat fleet. Another thing a Governor could do is stop the revolving door of state management personnel exiting state employment & then going to work for the large multinational fishery corporations as either lobbyists or consultants. Charlie’s idea of increasing state waters jurisdiction from 3 to 9 miles is another great idea that could protect near shore crab and halibut nurseries from depradation from trawlers, particularly around Kodiak. Charlie has my vote!

          • Fishing for Food,
            The “Limited Entry Commission “ has little to nothing to do with solving the bycatch problems. The vast, vast majority of the bycatch is caught by federally licensed licensed vessels under federal regulations. The CFEC you referred to provides fishing opportunity to permit holders to fish State waters in vessels that are considered small by comparison to the federal vessels that are responsible for the bycatch. And the very small state waters trawl fisheries have almost no impact on bycatch.
            There is no legal way nor should there be to stop former State ADF&G employees from working for a government agency.
            Your solutions simply are not available. It’s fine to want Pierce in office. But if you are going to base your choice on what he would do as Governor to stop bycatch you should know what you are talking about. You presently do not.

      • Moose. FYI I have been using my “Alaskans First “ moniker for many years before Pierce even thought about it. If you had read comments to Must Read Alaska or the Medred blogs more often you would have known that before you called me pathetic for using the words that you say Pierce now uses.
        Gotta keep up man!

        • Alaskans First – here it is right off the State of Alaska CFEC website, 2020 data. M7HB Statewide Miscellaneous Finfish, Trawl Gear, Over 125′, 45 permits, 43 fished, 564,726,380 total pounds delivered. Estimated earnings per vessel $1.5 million bucks.
          M71B Statewide Misc. Finfish, Trawl Gear, Over 125′, 94 permits, 83 fished, total estimated earnings almost 3 BILLION DOLLARS! or almost 3 MILLION DOLLARS per vessel. These are EXACTLY the boats responsible for the outrageous bycatch problems in Alaska. I didn’t even include the 90 – 125 foot Trawl vessels dragging in the Gulf of Alaska, but you get my drift. If you want to look them up their State Gear Code is M7HB. All these guys pay a pittance to the State based on their earnings. These boats routinely exceed their allotted bycatch numbers of crab, halibut, blackcod and king salmon sometimes by as much as 500%. It is long past time for an Alaskan Governor to step up to the plate and rein these guys in!

          • Couldn’t use my calculator once the numbers got into the billions. Correction on the State Trawl Permits for Miscellaneous Finfish M71B earnings per vessel – it is 30 million dollars gross earnings per vessel, not the 3 million dollars that I noted. Big money equals big influence over the State & Federal regulators and that is why the tragedy of trawl bycatch is unlikely to end anytime soon.

          • When they cross into state waters (which they do to get the fish processed), they get reported there even though the fish were caught and managed as federal fisheries. Sure those are big numbers, but that doesn’t mean they are state caught, state jurisdiction only extends a few miles, not the entire 200 nautical mile EEZ outside of state jurisdiction. Alaskans First is right.

    • Alaskans First, federal regulations do not require 100% observer coverage. In the gulf of Alaska, observer rates are actually quite low, so most of the bycatch is entirely unaccounted for. And though you are right that much bycatch occurs in federal waters, this does not mean that the state cannot exert control over these fisheries. Not only does the state manage fisheries in federal waters, such as the tanner crab and king crab fisheries, but the governor also selects members to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which sets fishing regulations in federal waters. Dunleavy’s selection to this council was based entirely on campaign contributions, and at the beginning of his term he chose to replace two Alaskan fishermen on the council with two representatives from Seattle-based seafood companies, a decision which effectively ceded control of our state fisheries to out-of-state interests. It was an appalling decision, and I’m curious why someone who calls themselves “Alaskans First” would defend the fisheries policies of a governor who has mostly catered to out-of-state seafood interests?

  2. I’ve got a different theory. The Chinese and Russian fishing vessels have gone unchecked for the most part during this administration. That would be NOAA and the Coast Guard, both federal. But yes, our state governor should be screaming. I have personally tried to contact the governor, senator Sullivan, and get crickets. They can’t be bothered to even respond. I understand that in Seattle you can purchase “Russian “ king crab or Chinese king salmon. While our fisheries tank. Biden hates Alaska, and he is in charge of allocating federal resources to combat piracy in our waters. Like I stated, just a theory, no evidence except my empty freezer and unanswered inquiries from our “representatives “ .

  3. It’s a bummer to see 10 tons of dinner plate sized halibut coming from 80 tons of pollock being dumped back into the ocean.

  4. Where to start? Talking about yourself in the first and third person from one sentence to the next in the same commentary, someone needs to proof read this before sending it off.

    This is a horrible issue to try and make a political hay out of, as governor Charlie wouldn’t be able to do most of the things he demands be done…demands! Demanding things as a public servant doesn’t go over very well, there’s a word for that and tyranny isn’t what we elect governors for. Yeah, bycatch is an issue that needs addressed and is being addressed within the proper channels. This commentary shows a very limited understanding of how his administration could possibly be effective for the average Alaskan on the part of Mr. Pierce.

    Charlie, spend more time talking about how you would handle the bloated budget and your views regarding how to handle the PFD.

  5. Good start. Second step would be a repeal of the ban on aquaculture for finfish and turning the commercial hatchery output to onshore / RAS / offshore fish farming, stopping the environmental disaster they are creating in PWS by dumping billions of pink fry yearly into the salt.

    This discussion also demonstrates he can count – 250,000+ sportfish license holders in Cook Inlet v 1,300 commfish permit holders. Being able to count is always a Good Thing. Cheers –

  6. Bottom trawling should be illegal, boats caught bottom trawling confiscated, captain and crew put on the first flight out of Alaska.

    Yes, bottom trawling is that big of a crime against humanity.

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