Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fish - Organic, Local, & in Season Part 2

Wild Sustainable Fish

In general the bigger or longer lived the fish is the less sustainable the fish stock will be.  In reports from the north east in the early 1700's a single sail powered ship was able to harvest more cod and haddock in the bay than the entire atlantic fleet did last year by using motors, better nets, and fishing many more thousands of square miles. This is not unusual, in most cases we simply over fish one species and then move onto another while still catching as many of the original species too.  Ever wonder why you never or rarely see haddock in the store?  It is because there are few left and what few there are are marked to northern european populations in this country and abroad. To find better sources of seafood look to small oily fish (anchovies, sardines, hooligan, herring, etc.) or short lived species like salmon. Most of the east coast, and europe have been over fished and only provide a few sustainable species in limited quantities. The west coast California to Washington has equally been decimated by over fishing, pesticide & herbicide poisoning, and dams that impede migrating fish from reaching their spawning grounds. Most of the Alaskan fish escaped over fishing to the levels of other areas due to it's remoteness and the limits placed on catching practices and quantities and practices shortly after statehood.  There are exceptions here too.  Herring, crab, and shrimp populations still have not recovered fully in Prince William Sound (PWS) after overfishing then the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  Likewise the south east coast of Alaska was hit harder by salmon and halibut fishermen from the pacific northwest. Both of these areas now support a recreational fishery and some limited commercial harvest.  The exception to that limit seems to be Halibut.  The  International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) allows a high catch of halibut commercially in these waters while limiting recreational and charter fishermen to a single fish with size limitations, that do not apply to commercial fishermen. Charter fishing seems to cross the line of recreational and commercial fishing to the IPHC.  While the fishermen are recreational fishermen the boat and it's captain are engaged in a commercial activity.  This single fish limit and size restriction only apply to south east Alaska and not the rest of the state, making it harder for Southeast businesses to attract paying customers.  Also the boat captain can not take a day off and take his family or friends fishing from the boat he uses to commercially fish from.  Most of the money from commercially fished halibut in SE Alaska goes to Seattle and not Alaska. Where recreational fishing and charter fishing goes to support local economies thru not only fishing but lodging, dining, and license sales. Anyway back to sustainable fish.  For the most part Halibut seem to be somewhat sustainably managed, I feel it would be better managed if the state of Alaska were given control instead of the IPHC. Also there is an issue with bycatch of rockfish and to a lesser extent Lingcod.  Rockfish are the bigger problem, they can live to 100+ years old and many species do not breed till they are over 30 years old.  While this is not terrible, it gets worse.  Rockfish have swim bladders which inflate as they are brought to the surface.  This is caused by rapidly rising in the water column and decreasing water pressure. This means that if they are just tossed over the side as other by catch is they will float and either die of sunburn or from birds.  These fish must be re lowered to the depth they were caught at before they can be released.  That does not happen with commercial fishing.  They either throw them over board, or puncture their air bladder and then throw them over board (where they will die out of sight since they can no longer control their air bladder with a hole in it). There are now devices that clamp onto the fishes lower jaw and lowers it to the bottom When the weight touches the bottom the device releases the fish unharmed, that have been developed by and for recreational fishers.  These improve the survivability of being caught and released from 75-90%.  

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