To the editor: Board of Fish, North Pacific council different
How do the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) and the Alaska Board of Fish (BOF) make decisions on a new proposal? Figure out how either of these bodies comes to a determination and it would be worth a whole lot of money. Oh, that’s right, it already is a lucrative business. Isn’t fisheries policy making already about economic benefits to certain user groups be it subsistence, sport or commercial?
I’ve spent the last two years up to my gills in fishery politics and there is one thing that can be identified: greed, for those who stand to win the most.
Going to a NPFMC meeting versus a BOF meeting is entirely two different cups of tea.
At the council, a new participant feels like a guppy in a pool full of piranhas, sharks, and killer whales. A private citizen/fisherman giving public comment has almost no stature to make a difference. But the council makeup has changed in the last six months, and hopefully all public input will soon be deemed important.
Veteran council-goers say the council process has been sabotaged for years. Lobbyists who are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars make deals in hotel rooms, on the phone, or in hallways during meetings. Where is the open, honest process that our forefathers promised us?
The BOF is a more open process. One submits a proposal, then the state asks for written public comments. The regional advisory board discusses the proposal and delivers a recommendation to the BOF. The BOF goes to the region of concern to take verbal public comment. Written comments are then brought forward to help clarify anyone’s remarks and help with solutions.
Those interested in being on a committee submit their name, and then discussion is taken up with the committee with three BOF members sitting on a panel. The panel asks questions to further better discussion of the proposal’s issues. The BOF then takes up the proposal and in front of the audience, there is deliberation, removal/addition of language and then a vote.
I’m impressed with the BOF process and the way that Chairman Mel Morris handles the meetings. I may not agree with the BOF’s decisions, but at least I can see how it works from the outside. What happens behind the scenes is a completely different story.
Two weeks ago, BOF deliberated over Proposal 58, which asks for set gillnet permit holders to be able to fish two CFEC permits simultaneously. This was only possible after House Bill 251 passed the state Legislature. HB251 was essentially a de facto permit/gear reduction for the Bristol Bay drift gillnet fishery. It allowed a salmon fisherman to own two permits. However, limited entry was all about common use and least impingement like the Alaska State Constitution requires.
Now owning two permits has morphed into a barrier for new entry into the Kodiak salmon gillnet fishery. It’s about allowing a dynasty to exist, so that permits never leave a family even after the old-timers perish. The Kodiak Fish and Game advisory board and a huge majority of permit holders were against this proposal. For no good reason the BOF passed the proposal. Why? We deserve to hear why. Please explain so all of us can understand why majority doesn’t rule.
Chairman Eric Olsen of the NPFMC is doing a great job, but it’s sad the council is still made up of bad seeds planted during Stephanie Madsen’s reign. If those bad weeds were pulled, the council process might be worthy of being called fair.
How can someone sit on the council and have clear conflicts of interest and vote on an issue that will clearly benefit their company, fishing interest, or personal gain? This is the biggest joke of the council process.
If I were on the NPFMC or the BOF anyone could look me in the eye knowing I’d weigh each issue according to what’s best for fishery conservation, protections, and what would benefit the harvesters (fishermen not investors) and communities as a whole. I say, “You can pay for justice, but you can’t buy truth.” Shawn Dochtermann writing to the Kodiak Daily Mirror
Some setnetters concerned over double-permit rule
It’s been nearly three weeks since the Alaska Board of Fisheries passed Proposal 58 and some set-net permit holders are still reeling from the possible implications.
“I don’t know if the board of fish actually realized what this proposal could do,” said Kip Thomet, an opponent of the proposal. “There’s some negative things that can come out of it and I don’t think they gave them enough weight.”
In 2006, House Bill 251 was signed into law authorizing the fish board to pass regulations allowing a person who holds two salmon entry permits to fish both.
In January 2007, in Kodiak, the fish board exercised that right by adopting Proposal 58, despite heavy public opposition.
The proposal was written by Washington resident Richard Blanc, whose family owns three set-net permits.
Opponents of the proposal, including all members of the Kodiak Fishery Advisory Committee, believe the proposal will create family dynasties, stifle new fishermen from entering the permit program, and lead to consolidation and absentee fisherman.
“This proposal does not create a high-quality product, strengthen stocks, reduce gear, or open opportunity,” wrote permit holder Margaret Bosworth in a letter to the board. “This proposal eliminates jobs and puts more power into the hands of a few.”
Not so, Blanc said.
“My proposal will have a positive economic impact as more crewmen and community support services will be needed,” he wrote in a letter to the board. “Proposal 58 will allow many … unused permits to be fished, thus allowing more crewmen to … get experience, save and enter into the fishery.”
Opponents don’t argue that more fishermen will be needed to fish additional permits. But getting into the fishery is another story.
“As they consolidate, it gives new people less of an opportunity to join the fishery,” Thomet said. “Prior to this decision, a permit would come available on the market only if either someone died and the estate put it back in there … or if someone decided they no longer wanted to operate in the fishery.”
Leo Kouremetis agreed, but also said it will create absentee fishermen, another argument by many opponents.
“There’ll be less chance now of anybody coming into the fishery because people are going to say, ‘Hey, I have it made. I don’t have to be there anymore. I can just transfer it to someone and let them fish it,’” he said.
The opposition believes there is no longer any reason to sell permits.
In fact, there never has been a reason, other than retirement or financial gain.
A search of the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission’s database showed that 189 permits exist for the Kodiak salmon fishery.
The value of permits has fluctuated over the years. Since the new millennium, prices have ranged from a low $37,800 from October to November 2005 to a high $108,500 in 2000. As of December 2007, permits were valued at $46,900.
A set-net site goes for much more. In April 2006, a site on the southern end of Kodiak was listed for $125,000 and a site at Olga Bay was selling for $350,000.
Now that an individual can own and operate more permits, the price is expected to increase, especially if the holders can continue to skirt existing regulations as they have in the past.
“As our kids have grown and entered non-fishing vocations (because of poor ex-vessel prices), we are finding it difficult to fish the same number of permits, unless they are permanently transferred (sold) to a crewman, Blanc wrote.”
But that’s just what many fishermen have been doing.
In order to get around existing regulations, it has become commonplace for some multiple permit holders to sell their second permit or a family member’s permit to a trusted individual. There are risks.
Michael Pagano and his son each own a set-net permit. Michael has been fishing his site for 50 years.
“Because I was unable to be physically on-site to fish, I have transferred my permit to different crewmembers,” Pagano wrote in a letter supporting the proposal. “On one occasion I had to hire a person to travel to Hawaii and get the crewman to (sign) the application for transfer … back to me.”
Another complication is that permit holders have control of the money generated by the permit, and if they wanted to, they could leave with the money and the permit.
Pagano said in his letter that he once sold his permit to a man who was behind in his child support payments. The child support division confiscated $14,000 from the permit account for back child support.
Multiple permit holders can also transfer permits to others through emergency orders as long as their paperwork looks in order.
There is not much the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission can do about the practice.
“Literally, we are issuing 10,000 permits a year; we get hundreds of emergency transfer requests (and) time is of the essence to keep people fishing. So I think if the paperwork looks in order and there is no reason to ask additional questions, our staff grants the transfers,” said Susan Haymes, law specialist for the Commercial Fishery Entry Commission. “They’re under enormous time constraints because our goal is to keep people fishing, to keep people in the water.”
This was one of the reasons several board members voted in favor of the proposal.
“The practice (of fishing two permits) is being done already under medical transfers and transferring permits in crewmembers’ names,” Vince Webster said. “I don’t see where this will change the fishery, whatsoever.” -- Kodiak Daily Mirror
Will whales block wave power plantations?
NEWPORT, Ore. Eighty-two feet above the shore at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, biologist Joel Ortega spots a gray whale swimming three nautical miles offshore.
A few seconds later, his team of observers, on hand with binoculars, a surveying instrument called a theodolite and a laptop, pinpoint the whale’s location, just inside the boundary of Oregon territorial waters where a wave energy park has been proposed for development.
“I’ve been doing marine mammal observations for about 12 years now, so I can’t avoid it,” said Ortega, a research associate at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. “Whenever I’m near the ocean, I start looking for whales and dolphins.”
Since early December, the team of OSU biologists has been cataloging the eastern gray whale as it migrates south from Alaska to Mexico, passing through the site of what one day could be Oregon’s first commercial wave energy park.
Their data will serve as a baseline of information to determine whether the whales’ path will change direction, speed or location after the buoys are installed.
The state is banking on wave energy as an industry it can dominate, and companies are eager to test their technologies for deployment.
“A wave energy research center could be a nice focus for the state of Oregon for what we’re doing with (renewable) energy generation,” said George Boehlert, director of the Hatfield Marine Science Center.
But state and federal regulators are hesitant to approve development of commercial wave energy parks without detailed environmental impact studies. Because ocean power technologies are relatively new, their effects on whales, dolphins, sea lions and other ocean life are largely unknown.
OSU’s marine mammal study is one of several funded by the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, which recently received $1 million from the Oregon Innovation Council to oversee research and development of ocean power technologies in the state. The grant is part of $4.2 million earmarked for wave energy by the 2007 Legislature.
“It’s very important to the wave energy sector to have this kind of a study being conducted,” said Mary Jane Parks, senior vice president of Finavera Renewables, which tested the AquaBuoy wave energy device that sank off the Newport coast last year. “We do need to have more marine research in this area to understand what the impacts are so we can better site the location of ocean energy plants.”
At Yaquina Head, the science team works quickly, scanning the horizon with high-power binoculars for a whale’s signature spouting. They zero in on the exact geographic location with a theodolite, the same instrument highway construction workers use to survey roads. Then they map the data on a laptop.
They take measurements to find the migration corridor, a whale highway for traveling to and from their mating grounds in Mexico. The grays are the only whales that follow a completely coastal route, making it possible to observe their migration from land. Other whales, such as humpbacks, travel through the open ocean as well as along the coast.
Gray whales typically migrate south between December and January, Ortega said, with the peak of the migration between Christmas and the first week in January. This year the whales appear to have left Alaska later than usual, since the peak happened later. Coos Bay World
Relicensing snake dams hangs on warm water
Cooler water. And endangered fish.
These are two of the hurdles that stand between Idaho Power Co. and new federal licenses to operate the three dams on the Snake River known as the Hells Canyon complex. For more than four years, Idaho Power has been trying to obtain the water-pollution permits it needs for relicensing. Because the company’s dams are on the state boundary, it needs Clean Water Act permits from both Idaho and Oregon.
The company must submit an operating plan that demonstrates the dams won’t violate water-quality standards. The three key remaining issues are temperature, dissolved oxygen levels and total dissolved gas, with temperature usually being one of the most difficult to address.
Idaho Power must cool the water it discharges into the Snake to make it less harmful to fall chinook salmon. Currently, it’s as much as 6 degrees Fahrenheit too warm during the first few weeks of the October spawning season, says Paul DeVito, natural resource specialist for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
The massive reservoirs created by Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams trap heat from the summer sun. But the water coming into the reservoir from upstream users including agriculture also helps create abnormally warm temperatures. And reduced flows, caused by irrigators, cities and towns and other water users, also contribute to the warm-water problem, making it difficult to figure out who’s responsible for what portion of the temperature increase.
As a result, Idaho Power may fund upstream watershed restoration in order to cool the water that ultimately flows into the Hells Canyon complex -- perhaps planting trees and shrubs to shade streams as well as increasing in-stream flows.
Beyond water-quality issues, Idaho Power must satisfy the federal government that it is doing enough to mitigate the damage its dams cause to bull trout, steelhead and salmon. It’s uncertain when the company will receive the necessary clearance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries. And NOAA Fisheries has reserved its right to require fish passage at the dams in the future even if it signs off on the current license application.
Idaho Power submitted its application for license renewal with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2003. The company’s original 50-year operating license expired in 2005, and it has since been operating on an annual license. It now estimates it will receive its new license in 2010. The federal power commission has the option of issuing a license that is good for between 30 and 50 years. High Country News
Alaska experience to aid albatross work
Albatross looking for a free meal on the high seas often pay the ultimate price of being drowned, injured or killed going after baited hooks.
Now, with numbers declining for the birds that can spend years at sea, fishing fleets around the world have agreed to use measures to prevent hooking albatross and other seabirds.
The measures -- which include using streamer lines to haze birds away from the stern of boats as miles of baited hooks are being set and dying bait blue to conceal it in dark water -- will go into effect this year in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
"Some of the most vulnerable seabird populations travel entire oceans in search of food," NOAA administrator Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher said. "Seabird conservation will require nations with longline fishing fleets to work together to adapt their fishing practices to avoid seabirds whenever they fish."
Albatross are particularly vulnerable to being hooked on longlines used to catch tuna, swordfish and other ocean fish. Their long search for food that takes them across international waters makes it imperative that the community of nations with longline fishing fleets abide by certain practices, NOAA officials say.
The measures agreed on by several commissions that govern high-seas fishing require fleets from more than 30 nations to use certain practices to avoid killing the birds. The practices will vary depending upon what works best and where, said Kim Rivera, national seabird coordinator for NOAA Fisheries' Alaska region office in Juneau.
"You have birds that are attracted to the fishing vessels because they see it as a feeding opportunity. The birds congregate there. They see it as a free meal," Rivera said. "They clue in on the baited hook and go after it."
The measures go into effect this year in the Atlantic, with a longer phase-in period in the Pacific. Nations with large fleets that have agreed to the measures include Taiwan, Japan and Korea.
Techniques that could be used for tuna and swordfish in the Atlantic include fishing at night when birds are less active, weighting fishing lines so the baited hooks sink more quickly and using long streamers.
"Those streamers whip around and basically scare the birds away," Rivera said.
Similar techniques will be used in the Pacific, with some longliners required to fish at night and others being prohibited from discharging fish waste at the same time as baited hooks are being set.
"There is really no one single measure that works 100 percent of the time," Rivera said.
In Antarctica, where the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources became the first international organization to require the measures, as many as 6,000 albatross a year were being incidentally caught in the late 1990s.
The commission has been very successful in preventing the hooking of several types of albatross in the Antarctic, Rivera said. No albatross have been unintentionally caught there in the last two years.
In the United States, only Alaska and Hawaii require their longliners to use antihooking measures. NOAA is looking into whether similar measures are needed off the Washington and Oregon coasts.
Alaska's longline fishermen began using streamer lines in the late 1990s and have found them to be very effective, said Dan Falvey, captain of the Myriad out of Sitka, who helped design the lines for smaller vessels.
Streamer lines are attached to the stern and extend out 150 to 300 feet behind the boat. Many times vessels will use a streamer line on either end of the stern, creating a box that the longlines are set inside. Long strings of orange surgical tubing are placed every 15 or 20 feet along the streamer line with the tubing extending to the surface of the water.
"What it creates is a moving fence around the gear that is being set and the birds are afraid to cross it," Falvey said.
The new international agreement is particularly significant for three species of albatross found in the North Pacific Ocean. One of those, the short-tailed albatross that breeds only in Japan, is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The large black and white birds with cream-colored heads and distinctive pink bills with a bluish tip, have a worldwide population of about 2,300 birds. Associated Press