NPFMC: Fishing Dismal – Let’s Take a Road Trip!


Jun 23, 2009

It looks like another dismal salmon season!

Fingers are being pointed at the pollock industry and rightly so.

Although there are Native Alaskans that would be hurt by a strict limit on the pollock fisheries, the majority of the profits from the Pollock industry are raked in by huge, Seattle-based processing corporations that scoop up thousands of Alaska’s prized salmon and discard them as a fishing byproduct.

Native Alaskan’s right to pursue their centuries-old  lifestyle of living off the abundance of the land has been trampled under the weight of  the lobbying power and tax dollars of the fish sandwich factories.

The North Pacific Fish Management Council (NFFMC) , the body that recently set a bycatch cap that allows tens of thousands of salmon to be sacrificed before the pollock fishery is closed is facing criticism from Native groups.

Rural Alaska gets voice in NPFMC committee

June 16, 2009 at 3:16PM AKST

Amid accusations that Western Alaska residents don’t have enough input into federal fishery decisions, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council has created an advisory committee on Alaska Native and rural issues, according to the council’s latest newsletter.

The NPFMC, increasingly aware of a “huge communication gap” with rural Alaska, created the Rural Community Outreach Committee earlier this year, said Duncan Fields, a member of the new committee and a voting member of the NPFMC.

Further along in the article the committee chairman explains the committee’s role:

The committee’s chairman is Eric Olson, who is also chairman of the NPFMC. Olson is a longtime Bristol Bay fisherman raised in Dillingham.

Fields, reached at his set net fishing site off western Kodiak Island, where his family catches salmon, said the new committee is envisioned less as an advocacy group for rural Alaska and more as a way to reach out to an area of the state where media and communication options can be limited.

The committee will hold meetings in urban areas and invite tribal and Native leaders, he said. Council members and staff will also travel to predominantly Native rural Alaska to meet with people there.

You don’t even have to read between the lines – they put it right up front.

“We’re not going to help you get more fish swimming upstream but we’ll bring a dog and pony show to you and you can politely air your gripes, no guarantees.”

Bottom line: There’s not enough true representation of Tribal/Native interests on the front line of the fishery management battle.

The Mudflats and Progressive Alaska have much more on this and Dennis Zaki will soon have film from a meeting he’s attending about subsistence fishing in Emmonak tomorrow.

~ Jane

P.S. I started this post to request donations to help get Dennis to Emmonak but in the time I’ve spent getting my thoughts down, Dennis has received sufficient donations and is on his way. You guys rock!!


16 Responses to “NPFMC: Fishing Dismal – Let’s Take a Road Trip!”

  1. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Well it’s an interesting time, with the meeting with the Federal Subsistence Board meeting in Emmonak tomorrow (Weds, June 24). Let’s hope this board has ears, smarts and teeth! (June 1st)

    “The Federal Subsistence Board has approved a special action that closes federal public waters along parts of the Yukon River to the harvest of chinook salmon by non-federally qualified subsistence users, according to a news release…

    The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act requires that, in times of shortage, federally qualified subsistence users have priority over other users for the subsistence harvest of fish and wildlife on Federal public lands and waters.”

  2. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    More on the NFPMC, from Nick P. Andrew Jr. (excerpts)

    “The role of king salmon conservation should be technically and legally reversed so the burden is distributed equally.

    However, the state Board of Fisheries, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) and the Palin administration have favored big business over subsistence.

    We along the Yukon River now understand why the Palin administration has ignored us and did very little during the recent NPFMC hearings to protect the very way of life that sustains and nourishes us.

    An Alaska inter-tribal class-action lawsuit must be considered by all tribes affected from the mouth of the Yukon River to the Canadian Border’s First Nations Tribes to address the high seas fisheries and the State of Alaska’s lack of concern for the ongoing Chinook salmon dilemma.

    Silence is not golden. Our subsistence rights must at all costs never be compromised.”

  3. Jim Says:

    Where’s John Moller?

  4. Rob Rosenfeld Says:

    Shouldn’t we require the, “Seattle-based processing corporations” to improve the technology so they don’t catch Salmon in error and / or require them to process the Salmon they catch on board and then arrange for delivery to the people in rural, Alaska who are going without Salmon?

    We also need to change the terminology. It shouldn’t be called, “bycatch”. Instead it should be referred to as “illegal catch”.

  5. anonymousbloggers Says:


    So what’s the first step?

    It seems like when there’s a problem in Alaska they put another committee/council/board between the problem and the solution.

    Is there one agency we should target that could come in and clean up this mess? Maybe federal?


  6. alaskapi Says:

    There is no one agency which can sort this out. This complex inter-agency boardgame grew out of efforts to address pieces of the whole by interested parties – with very different stakes in outcome.
    ALL have some legitimate stake
    The level to which each checks and mates each other anymore is wasteful of time, dollars, and fish- and out of the reach of the ordinary citizen trying to feed their family and get on with everyday life.

    It would be in the best interests of all to step back and sort out priorities and goals . (We need to gather scientific information rather than rely on anecdotal info as well.)
    Agencies, with their narrowly defined tasks, need to be charged with working with each other and developing strategies to meet their goals while being mindful of other legitimate stakeholders’ goals…
    and all of the dang alphabet soup folks MUST develop and maintain a better set of mechanisms to work with the folks they serve!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. alaskapi Says:

    And ,while all this fooling around sorting out competing interests works iself out , we need meaningful assurances and action that rural folks will not only have a real voice in their own lives but remedy for the mess they are having to deal with right now.

  8. alaskapi Says:
    While we look at long term goals for the fishery and folks in rural Alaska we must stay mindful that whatever our plans are , we cannot avoid having to factor in that which we cannot change…but must accomodate.

  9. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Do villagers have to wait until they have cash from fishing to contract for winter fuel?

    Seems the state could at least get the fuel to the villages before there’s any chance of a freeze and settle up later.

  10. alaskapi Says:

    How long do we wait to tie federal interests in Americans waters regarding fishing and meeting treaty obligations to Canada…?

    It is of grave concern to me that folks ON the Yukon are bearing the most onerous burden of meeting treaty obligations at present. When does the fed look at it’s own right-hand-doesn’t-know-what-the-left-is doing thingy?

    By continuing to accept salmon ‘bycatch” as a regrettable but necessary accessory to successful Pollack fishing , have we already damaged the fishery beyond repair? Why are the dead fish in the bycatch of seemingly no consequence in adjusting for allowing larger escapement to Canadian waters?
    A State Dept official was more forceful than I am here in addressing the NPFMC on this in March…

  11. anonymousbloggers Says:

    It does seem backwards.

    The pollock fishery should be OPENED AFTER sufficient salmon have been allowed to reach the spawning grounds and the people have enough to eat and sell.

    Now they close down after they have caught so many fish that the fishery and the people are in danger.

    Is this a possibility?

  12. Jim Says:


    I don’t know if all villages will be able to afford fuel delivery before freeze up, or how much income from fishing factors in, but if it becomes apparent villages will run short again, Alaska’s legislature should go into special session, fund or loan money, and make sure the fuel gets delivered before freeze up. While they’re at it they could also override the governor’s veto of federal weatherization stimulus funds.

  13. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Good point, Rob! Aren’t we repeating history here?

  14. Kath the Scrappy Says:

    Maybe what they need to do – instead of putting a halt to the substinance fishing of salmon – is to put a SCREAMING halt to the pollack trawlers first. Bet that would help the trawlers figure out QUICKLY how to reduce the numbers of “bycatch” or “illegal catch”.

    When Vic attended that meeting, I believe one of the arguments was that the trawlers have no way to process the much larger size of the salmon, in order to let the Rural Villages make use of the salmon before it was discarded. Sorry, that just seemed like a flimsy excuse, didn’t wash for me. Better to toss it overboard while leaving people to starve next winter.

    I’m totally ashamed to be a citizen of ‘anything-2-make-a-buck’ Seattle. I am so horrifically sorry!

  15. Kath the Scrappy Says:

    Even if they had to make regular boat runs to&from to deliver the “illegal catch” wouldn’t that make more sense than just wasting the fish?

  16. alaskapi Says:

    It isn’t only Salmon that is scooped up and discarded dead…
    We have concentrated here on Salmon because that is the fishery which affects our friends and neighbors’ lives most directly.
    The very nature of factory trawling is that ANY so-called non-target species is scooped up… and discarded as bycatch.
    The compartmentalized way the NPFMC is set up to deal with things allows us all to ignore the broader issues of full ecosysytem impact by this method of fishing.

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