In my earlier post today I highlighted the recent announcement by the U.S. Government of a “fishery disaster” referring to the Yukon River Chinook salmon fishery. This past year, 2009, there was no Chinook fishery and in 2008 the fishery was 89% less than the five year average.
However, an extra ‘brave decision’ has been made in the last few days by Alaskan policy makers – reduce the gill net size by one inch to allow bigger fish through (but it won’t be imposed until 2011).
“Will this work? I don’t know, but we’ve got to do something,” fisheries board member Bill Brown [Alaska Board of Fisheries] of Juneau told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. “Too long this fishery has gone downhill.”
So if you are one of the over ninety First Nation or Inuit communities, or several settler communities, on the Yukon River that vitally depends on yearly returns of salmon – don’t worry, this will be a case of where “one inch” makes all the difference in the world.
You also should not worry because the Yukon River salmon fisheries were certified by the Marine Stewardship Council in 2000 as sustainable well-managed fisheries as part of the overall Alaskan salmon fisheries.
The MSC is the world’s leading certification and ecolabelling program for sustainable seafood.
In fact as highlighted in the July 2007 “5-year Re-assessment” of Commercial Alaska Salmon Fisheries by one peer reviewer of the report:
This fishery received the highest scores in the state for criteria 1.1.1, 1.1.2, and 1.1.3.
What do those criteria 1.1.1, etc. refer to? Well… MSC Principle 1 states:
A fishery must be conducted in a manner that does not lead to over-fishing or depletion of the exploited populations and, for those populations that are depleted, the fishery must be conducted in a manner that demonstrably leads to their recovery.
The specific criteria referred to is:
1. The fishery shall be conducted at catch levels that continually maintain the high productivity of the target population(s) and associated ecological community relative to its potential productivity.
To be fair the specific peer reviewer, of which no name is given in the 2007 report, does suggest that the scoring for these criteria in relation to the Yukon River salmon fishery are probably “too high.”
However, this particular reviewer follows up with one of my new favorite quotes:
…I would have liked to see the text more clearly acknowledge that the failure to meet escapement goals in this region was almost certainly due to a series of years with poor environmental conditions, and not due to poor management
Is this not kind of like saying, gee… you know all those bank failures in the U.S. last year… that was due to the poor economic environment not the actual management practices of the bank.
Or, gee… that flooding from Hurrican Katrina in New Orleans was poor environmental conditions, not the management practices of engineers and city planners.
Next thing you know, British Columbia Ferries will be blaming the sinking of the Queen of the North on the environmental conditions that placed that darn island in the way – not the staff of the boat that ran it into the island.
Or, gee I’m signficantly overweight (now over 60% of the population), that’s because of the fatty food at the supermarket and McDonald’s – not my personal management decisions.
Come on folks. Maybe the changing environmental conditions – of which as far as I noticed is something that happens every second of every day – is exactly why we should not be killing 80% of estimated salmon runs expecting 20% to reproduce in perpetuity (i.e. the classic Canadian fisheries management tool of Maximum Sustainable Yield).
Or maybe we shouldn’t even be taking 50% of salmon runs, as practiced in Alaska.
The time for suggesting: “ummm, yeah, none of this is our fault – it’s the ocean’s fault…” are gone and should never have been around in the first place. You can’t hammer every salmon run imaginable for decades then throw up your hands and pretend you had nothing to do with declines.
It’s like the proverbial fart on the school bus, or elevator, or supermarket aisle – a shrug and a point “wasn’t me… it was that guy…”