July 1, 2019
When we were growing up, former Fishermen’s News editor Richard Philips would tell us about a crab boat skipper he spoke with outside his offices at Fishermen’s Terminal who complained bitterly of the disappointing season, high fuel costs and low values as he walked toward his new Coupe de Ville.
It’s true – fishermen face a lot of obstacles, and sometimes it’s hard to see anything else, so this month we’ll call out some of the good news we’ve seen for the west coast fishing industry.
Let’s start with Linda Behnken’s piece on page 14 of this issue (Fishermen's News, July 2019). Linda is the Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, and in her op-ed this month she describes Alaska’s Young Fishermen’s Development Act, which is a bipartisan effort to establish a grant program to support the education, training and mentoring of young and beginning fishermen. commercial fishing desperately needs a new generation to take over from their parents and grandparents – Alaska’s Young Fishermen’s Development Act is a start in the right direction, and good news for those fishermen considering retirement and hoping to pass along their boat and permit.
Elsewhere in this issue is a story detailing the dismissal of a ridiculous lawsuit that sought to keep the Bristol Bay Regional seafood Development Association from spending association money to advocate against a mine that threatens the livelihoods of its membership. A judge ruled that the association can indeed take a position on Pebble Mine and can fund groups opposed to the mine. This is good news for anyone involved in the commercial fishery in Bristol Bay, including harvesters, processors, equipment suppliers and service providers, and a small but important victory against the Pebble Mine Partnership.
More good news for Bristol Bay comes courtesy of a program using robots to track the movement of adult male red king crabs. The robots, called Saildrones, are described by their manufacturer as a “…fleet of wind and solar-powered ocean drones monitoring the state of the planet in real time.”
The drones will locate the tagged crabs in the fall to determine how they move onto the fishing grounds, and in the spring to determine their locations when they are vulnerable to being caught as bycatch in trawl fisheries. We welcome our robot colleagues – you might see one while you’re in the Bay this year.
Finally, the good news for Bristol Bay fishermen, whose fishery had just opened at press time, is a forecast of 40.18 million sockeye salmon expected to return to Bristol Bay in 2019, which is below the most recent 10-year average of 44.4 million but well above the long-term average of 34.2 million fish. All systems are expected to meet their spawning escapement goals. If the estimates pan out they would allow for a potential harvest of more than 26 million fish in the Bay. That would be good news indeed.
Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email: email@example.com