Wednesday, June 03, 2009

We're Doing a Heckuva Job With Fisheries

With apologies, again, for this pale imitation of the inimitable Harper's Index.
“I hope you enjoy this book, as a resource and a reminder of the visionary pioneers, scientists, and leaders who have been a part of developing Alaska’s amazing commercial fisheries. The stage is set for keeping our fisheries wild and productive, sustaining ways of life and livelihoods for generations to come.”
-- ADF&G Commissioner Denby Lloyd, in the foreward to "Sustaining Alaska's Fisheries: 50 Years of Statehood", a publication commissioned as part of Alaska's 2009 Statehood Celebration
  • Salmon caught by Emmonak for subsistence in 1980: 2,256 chinook, 12144 chum, 1350 coho
  • Est. population of Emmonak, 1980: 567
  • Chinook salmon caught by Emmonak for subsistence in 2006: 2311
  • Est. population of Emmonak, 2007: 767
  • Total subsistence chinook harvest on Yukon in 2006: 48682
  • 10 year average of that total prior to 2006: 51574
  • Percentage of Yukon area households reporting that more than 75 percent of their subsistence needs for chinook salmon were met in 20061: 41
  • Record number of chinook salmon caught as 'bycatch' by the pollock fishery, year: 122,000, 2007
  • Chinook salmon caught as bycatch in the same fishery in 2008: 20,000
  • Average # of chinook salmon caught as 'bycatch' by the pollock industry, 2005-2007: 44,000
  • Chinook bycatch cap proposed by ADF&G Commissioner Denby Lloyd to NPFMC in 2009: 69,000
  • Chinook bycatch cap supported by Western Alaska groups: 32,500
  • Chinook bycatch cap agreed to by NPFMC at April 2009 meeting: 60,000
  • Year bycatch cap will take effect if authorized by feds, treaty: 2011
  • Years in which Alaska failed to let enough chinook salmon through to Canada as provided by treaty: 2007, 2008
  • Percentage decrease in pollock abundance, per year, since 2003: 20
  • Cap of harvest set by NPFMC for Bering Sea pollock fishery in seasons A&B in 2009: 815,000 metric tons
  • Cap of harvest set by NPFMC in 2008: 1 million metric tons
  • Cap of harvest set by NPFMC in 2007: 1.39 million metric tons
1Which is a very complicated way of asking if they got enough (or even 3/4 of enough) chinook salmon for their subsistence needs.

Selected (not all) Sources:
-1980 Census of the Population, Volume 1, Characteristics of the Population, U.S. Department of the Census, 1981
- Alaska Subsistence Fisheries Annual Report 2006, Technical Paper 344, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Subsistence Division, 2009.
- "Fast Fish, Loose Fish - Who will own Alaska's disappearing salmon?", Rowan Jacobsen, Harper's Magazine, May 2009.
- "Villagers denounce Yukon king closures", Kyle Hopkins, The Anchorage Daily News, May 29, 2009.


Mr. Natural said...

So the upshot here is that some Native villages or clans are taking more salmon than they can eat? That the pollack industry is slowly fishing itself out of business?

I worked the Eskimo villages from Kuskokwim North by tug and barge for several years in the early 80's, and saw very few who were organised enough to actually get out and CATCH many fish...

CabinDweller said...

No, the upshot is the opposite. Subsistence fisherfolk (and heck, even the few commercial fisheries on the Yukon, which are on the Lower Yukon) aren't taking more than they need. The middle and upper Yukon communities don't even have commercial fisheries for salmon. Yet, they are the ones bearing most burden of conservation.

To oversimplify the problem: really, we don't know jack about the Bering Sea. We have allowed wasteful fishing practices (see trawlers), will probably overfish the pollock eventually, and have very little idea of what the carrying capacity of the Bering Sea is (I'm talking about the millions upon millions of hatchery salmon kicked out by the Russians and Japanese to compete for food out there with wild stocks). And how all these things relate to changes in the ocean brought about by climate change (whether you think it is human caused or a natural cycle).

And yet, with the decline of one of the few commercial salmon fisheries for the Yukon communities (Lower Yukon communities) - a decline of the king freaking salmon - AND restrictions on subsistence harvest - the State of Alaska commissioned a book on what a great job we're doing.

Cate said...

With unemployment at 85% in any typical year, it's just rude and ridiculous to just take away an entire industry -- one of the only money-making industries available-- from folks. But that's what's been done to Lower Yukon fisherfolk. I live in Hooper Bay, and I'm happy with the chum I catch. But then I have a job, and an income. It just strikes me as preposterous that we allow these trawlers (who are not just destroying salmon, but everything in their path) to waste wantonly and then just ask actual fisherfolk to pay the price. And, honestly, I think it's because Yup'ik people won't make a huge stink about it -- they should, but they don't feel comfortable doing it as a whole. (There are exceptions, of course.)