Thursday, October 8, 2009
Scandalous crab bycatch exposed?
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has been meeting all week in Anchorage, but Deckboss didn't bother to attend the first few days. Frankly, the agenda looked kinda boring.
This afternoon, however, I decided to make at least a brief appearance.
And wouldn't you know, the action in the council chamber suddenly livened up only moments after your correspondent walked in.
A fisherman, Alexus Kwachka, was among several people testifying about the problem of the growing incidental capture — that's bycatch, in industry parlance — of bairdi Tanner crab in trawl nets dragging for groundfish around Kodiak.
Now, it's old sport down at the council for the guys who fish with pots and hooks to criticize the guys who fish with yawning trawl nets that often drag the ocean floor.
But Kwachka had more than just talk. He brought a series of rather startling photos depicting big mounds of Tanner crab bycatch on the deck of an unidentified trawler.
The pictures were said to have been taken this past summer. I've posted one here showing a multitude of Tanners mixed in with various fish.
To Kwachka and others, the pictures show why the council needs to take swift action to boot trawlers out of the crab grounds so Tanner stocks can complete an apparent revival and provide good income for small-scale fishermen.
A big problem is that Gulf trawlers most of the time carry no federal fishery observer to document the level of bycatch, say activists with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.
Now I'm just guessing, but I wouldn't expect the trawl industry to concede that these pictures are anything more than anecdotal.
But dang, they really are troubling images, all those half-mangled crab hauled up as waste.
It'll be interesting to see how the council handles this.