National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and


As I look upon the new year, I try to focus on new possibilities and the hope of things to come.

2012 is the year of the water dragon in the Chinese zodiac. Perhaps that presages the commercial fishing industry wresting some control of its future from a little knoll on the Potomac.

I know we're working to win the hearts and minds with a growing list of fishing reality shows.

This week, the Learning Channel will debut the show "Hook, Line and Sisters" about an Alaska seining family.
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...Is a cod assessment.

The bipartisan pressure is on this holiday season for Secretary of Commerce John Bryson to respond to a recent Northeast cod stock assessment that declares the species severely overfished.

Despite years of attrition in the New England groundfish fleets, fishermen are still paying the price for depleted cod stocks without the long-promised payday.
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While most of Congress is steadily working toward the megabus solution that will keep the country running, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) was tasked yesterday with the unenviable assignment of hearing testimony on genetically engineered salmon.

I must admit I am baffled that while environmental groups often fight tooth and nail to keep fishermen off the water, we are even debating the possibility of growing genetically engineered fish and mining at the headwaters of the largest sockeye salmon run in the world — Bristol Bay, Alaska. Where is the precautionary approach when you need it?

Pebble Mine and Frankenfish have no place in an eco-conscious country until or unless they are fully vetted and proven to pose no risk to wild populations.

But that's impossible, you might say.
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The latest International Pacific Halibut Commission allocation proposals for Alaska have rocked fishermen all over the state (and many recreational fishermen across the country who comprise the fishing tourism sector).

The charter halibut fleet likely dodged a bullet by convincing NMFS to delay the catch-sharing plan they had once agreed to. But whatever happens, they will feel the pinch of reduced quotas, as well.

And well they should. But what this news tells me is that there is no fishery management panacea.

Just when you think IFQs or catch shares are the best route for all fisheries, Mother Nature throws you a curve ball. We've seen it in Pacific halibut, Gulf of Mexico gag grouper and possibly even in Northeast cod.

So the question is, what to do?
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I love telling people about our fishery management system and how it works to keep our fisheries healthy, which is no easy task.

But an even heavier burden to bear is that of fishermen whose stock is depleted despite years of arduous efforts to rebuild it. Sometimes, we must accept, fishing effort is not the problem.

Yet, where does that leave fishermen and fishing communities?
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The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas held its annual meeting last week in Istanbul.

I was very happy to hear that Russell Smith, NOAA's deputy assistant secretary of international fisheries, managed to negotiate a hold on the U.S. swordfish fleet quota of 3,907 metric tons.

U.S. swordfishermen have worked very hard to abide by conservation measures to protect seabirds and turtles, prevent other bycatch and rebuild the stock. Strict adherence to these rules has reduced the size of the fleet, and therefore hampered catch rates, leaving the fishery underfished.
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Yesterday was a big day at Pacific Marine Expo, with full aisles, a huge floor to cover, and lots of conferences and special events, including the World Wildlife Fund's Smart Gear award announcements.

Today promises to be even bigger, as we'll hand out our first Boats & Gear awards during our first Boatyard Day celebration.

We are thrilled to highlight the work of Jennifer Lincoln with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health office of Commercial Fishing Safety Research in Anchorage, Alaska, Fred Wahl of Fred Wahl Marine Construction in Reedsport, Ore., and the 100-year-old wooden halibut schooner Tordenskjold.
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One week from now, we'll be halfway through the 44th annual Pacific Marine Expo at Seattle's CenturyLink Field Event Center (formerly Qwest).

It's an especially exciting year for me because it's my first as editor in chief of the magazine, it's a West Coast Highliner year, we're hosting the announcement of the World Wildlife Fund's Smart Gear Competition winners, and to top it all off, we're rolling out our first ever Boats & Gear awards.

As a fishing magazine, we're all about our fishermen, which is why we take a lot of pride in honoring our Highliners every year. But what about all the folks who support the crews on deck?
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It is easy to get caught up in the solemn news of the industry and pass over the bright spots.

This week my eye grazed articles on lagging oyster harvests, tightened shrimp seasons, cod stock controversy, turtle excluder violations, albatross bycatch and salmon anemia.

But one thing that is undoubtedly going well is the expansion of Asian carp processing facilities in Illinois. The invasive fish may be beating down the doors at the Chicago Ship Canal, but the Pearl, Ill.-based Big River Fish company is doing its best to keep the swarm in check.
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As NOAA head Jane Lubchenco continues to tout the economic outlook for the New England groundfish fleet, the people who do the hard work of running and managing those fishing businesses met in Portland, Maine, earlier this week.

The consensus (aside from the well-known fact that the overwhelming majority of smaller boats are struggling to stay in business) is that last year NMFS bungled data management from one end of the season to the other. Disappearing quota, mystery VMS reports, and paperwork black holes were some of the top concerns of sector managers on the second day of meetings.
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Page 20 of 35

Inside the Industry

NMFS has awarded 16 grants totaling more than $2.5 million as part of its Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program.

The program supports the development of technological solutions and changes in fishing practices designed to minimize bycatch and aims to to find creative approaches and strategies for reducing bycatch, seabird interactions, and post-release mortality in federally managed fisheries.


Abe Williams, who was elected to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association board last spring, has been selected as the new president as of September.

Williams fishes the F/V Crimson Fury, and is president of Nuna Resources, a nonprofit that supports sustainable resource development in rural Alaska, including fighting for an international solution to issues raised by the proposed Pebble Mine project.

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