THE REAL WORLD?
Hey, Folks- It is true that Wards Cove pulled out of the salmon business in Alaska because of a world glut of farmed fish. It is also true that Pan Fish, one of the largest Norwegian interests in farmed Atlantics, the company who basically ate Ward Cove’s lunch for them, is also on the verge of bankruptcy.
Fish farmers have gotten so good at their game that they have outstripped consumption. Simply put, there are not enough mouths to eat the fish the aquaculture interests can produce, at least at the price they require to retire debt and remain a solvent business.
What I have seen conspicuously absent in arguments on this issue, however, is there has been little mention of fishery management.
Once fishery managers determine an annual harvest quota for fish, whether it’s salmon or bluefin tuna, these fish have automatically become expendable. They are already as good as harvested before the ink is dry. So if there is no Ward’s Cove around to harvest a body of salmon, then those salmon become fair game for umpteen more sport fishing lodges to be built to fill the harvest vacuum. Or it increases Trident Seafood’s or Icicle Seafood’s harvest opportunities.
And it is a source of hilarity to me to continually hear guides and “sports fishermen” direct their snide comments and their bitter invectives at the “commercial sector”, which as you’ve probably already gathered is just barely hanging on by its fingernails anyway.
These same “sports fishermen” who would crucify a commercial troller or a gillnetter think nothing about going up to Sitka or Craig or Dillingham and dropping $ 4,000 on a guide and a boat to return a week later to Sea Tac with 200 pounds of vac-packed Chinook and silver fillets under their arm. And it’s besides the point that 30 % of these fillets will end up buried in their garden because the stoned-out teenager who filleted the fish while they were drinking their single-malt and boasting about their rod and reel exploits left the blood-line in.
In the last ten years the sports fishing lobby in Alaska has eaten the “commercial” sector alive. In other words, there has been a passing of the resource (public resource) from one “commercial” sector over to another "commercial" sector. The “sports fishing” interests have done this because of much stronger lobbying power.
How did they generate such power ? Because sports fishing is big business! Anyone who doesn’t quite understand this should visit Ketchikan airport in July and watch the forklifts loading the pallets of vac-pac Chinook and silver fillets into the bellies of Alaska Air jets, all destines for Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., Des Moines Iowa, New York City.
Any “sports fisherman” who cheers because a Chinook salmon that has escaped Ward Cove’s evil clutches will now somehow live to spawn or provide an opportunity for his fly rod on a pristine riffle somewhere is not plugged in to the real world. That Chinook will become one more slash mark on the other side of the ledger for a “sport fishing” operation in Sitka, where the humble owner/operator, the one with the seven $ 50,000 Grady Whites, each with spring-loaded chairs and Furuno color sounders, can now beat his chest because he’s finally taught those evil commercial fishermen wise and sagacious stewardship of the resource.
And he’s got a spot available for you next July. I’m sure he could fit you in.