Fish Traps ill suited for
By Bob Thorstenson
January 14, 2009
As much as old timers like to romanticize about fish traps, they
were a bad idea and will remain a bad idea no matter what the
fuel costs are. With the logic shown by Mr. McGilvray and revealed
by his idea that the "replaced" gillnetters and seiners
would indeed have jobs (pitching fish out of the traps), like
some of the "new-age green" logic out there, you'd
have to follow that analysis up with a 3rd level, replace drift
gillnetting by just doing more purse seining.
Note that SEAS does not endorse this eco-nazi madness but consider
this. Cost per pound and pound per gallon of diesel burned,
purse seining is more efficient than any other type of salmon
harvest, including trolling, drift gillnetting and most sport
Seining is probably more fuel and economically efficient than
fish traps as well. So the debate on our part would end there.
But SEAS will NEVER advocate that we manage our salmon resource
based upon archaic and bizarre "green" notions. Just
because one type of harvest, or proposed harvest, may burn less
diesel is just one of dozens if not hundreds of factors that
must be addressed when discussing reintroduction of fish traps
But let's discuss it now. First of all, the 100% of troll production
that occurs takes place in areas where traps would not be viable
or even possible, like 3-30 miles offshore. Also Kings and Cohoes
are very, very deep salmon species which are not targeted and
sparsely harvested by purse seine fishermen due to their natural
deep tendencies. Last year the purse seine fleet harvested just
3% of the wild, non-SE enhanced Kings and 14% of the cohoes.
These numbers are about average. Seiners are supposed to harvest
19% of cohoes and 4.3% of kings but rarely ever get to those
percentages. And the seiners catch those fish where the fish
traps normally would fish. (not that there aren't new harvesting
locations, but after commercial fishing since 1878 in SE, there
are very rarely any new corridors opening up).
So much with replacing the trollers. Gotta have those kings
Now the gillnetters. They fish in areas that are difficult to
access and, aside from Colpoys and a few choice trapsites in
Clarence Strait. Unless you want to replace the Juneau and Haines
gillnet fleets with the reopening of Icy Strait, Inian Islands
and the Homeshore to fish traps because that is where those stocks
need to be harvested if using fish traps. Not doable.
So much with replacing the gillnetters.
Now the seiners, whom I represent. Since we harvest 90% of the
pink salmon and about half of the chum salmon and sockeye salmon,
then that would be your mix of the Southeast salmon table without
changing the other fleets around at all. Now once you've set
up your trap--which by the slimmest of estimates (my grandfather
owned one in 1929 and his costs were $3500 for the summer) would
be a million dollars to set up and $150,000 for a tender to
contract to haul the fish ( thankfully, under your contemplated
scenario, this is one group that may hold onto their jobs) and
fuel and labor would be another $100,000.
So now you've got a trap. If it's a pile trap you cannot move
it. If it's a floater, then you can tow it to it's location.
If the salmon don't come that way or it's a bad season due to
the poor winters (2008) we've been having lately or due to a
drought(2006) (2008 and 2006 were the 3rd and 4th lowest pink
salmon harvests and returns since the 1970's)then you've got
a million dollar trap sitting somewhere and now it cannot move
to where the fish are travelling.
That's why we cannot replace the seiners.
But we are working to keep the fleet operating at lower numbers
so that we are better able to continue to reduce our greenhouse
impact and to better earn a living wage with a smaller overall
numbers. A seine fishery that makes $6-9000 per year for it's
professional crew members as we did from 2002-2006 is not going
to have a professional crew around for long. Nor is it ever
going to be considered a viable living unless we can keep some
certainty in the numbers of boats.
Our buyback (fleet consolidation) has been held up by a number
of circumstances these past few years. The good news is that
it looks like we're going to have it in place by the 2010 season,
so we'll be able to get a meaningful and predictable job situation
for our crews.
Crewing aboard the vessel I own used to be a full time job and
5 Petersburg families lived on those wages from my vessel (when
my grandfather ran it). Many of the members of SEAS still operate
this way, especially in towns like Ketchikan, where you live.
Besides just the owners, many additional families are able to
earn a living on these seiners.
I can proudly say that my past 26 summers as a skipper have(as
a part time commercial fisherman) paid for predominantly SE
Alaska kids to get a perch to pay for college or buy time to
consider their full time future or career- be it more full time
commercial fishing or something else. And even their parents
have a vested interest in my business since they don't have to
pay as much for their kids college.
On to sports fishing. I do alot of that but I don't represent
their interests collectively. But I'm sure there are alot of
wives out there who agree with your efficiency ideas and would
rather have their husbands just pick up the fish at the store
or in your case at the fish trap dock, and not bother with the
trip and wilderness experiences out there they go through when
they catch it.
Thanks for your efficient fishing idea, Mr. McGillvray, but no
Executive Director, SEAS
Received January 08, 2009 -
Published January 14, 2009
Traps By Rudy McGillvray
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