National Fisherman

Mixed Catch 

jerryJerry Fraser is NF's publisher and former editor.



Scientists at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium on Monday delved into the question of what caused the 2012 king salmon decline, and were able to identify a number of possible reasons. One of them is that climate change is affecting king salmon food sources. As a result, salmon are smaller when they first head to sea, making them more vulnerable to predators.

That theory conflicts with one suggested back in November by The Onion, a satirical weekly publication that bills itself, with tongue rather firmly planted in cheek, as "America's Finest News Source."

According to the Onion story, lack of food wasn't a problem, at least for one king salmon who spoke with reporters. Apparently the king had chowed down on the bounty of marine life to the point where the now severely obese salmon couldn't swim upstream and spawn.

"I mean, I try to swim every day," the salmon told The Onion. "But I never could cut all those fattening Pacific herring out of my diet. I guess I'm paying for it now."

While the theories the scientists at the Alaska symposium cited are far more creditable, The Onion story is funny and entertaining. What isn't funny is Congress stripping $150 million in fishery disaster assistance — a portion of which would go to assist Alaska fishermen and communities affected by the run failure — from the final version of the Superstorm Sandy relief bill.

According to the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, revenue losses stemming from the run failures total an estimated $16.8 million. Unfortunately, lawmakers who labeled the fisheries aid money as pork stripped it from the bill.

That's a head-scratcher. There's more logic behind The Onion's humorous theory as to the failed Alaska salmon run than there is behind any reasoning lawmakers used to remove the fisheries disaster funds from the Sandy relief bill. And that's no laughing matter.

Inside the Industry

NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.


A new study has identified a set of features common to all ocean ecosystems that provide a visual diagnosis of the health of the underwater environment coastal communities rely on.

Together, the features detail cumulative effects of threats -- such as overfishing, pollution, and invasive species,  allowing responders to act faster to increase ocean resiliency and sustainability.

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