Onthe Waterfront

Published on Thu, Nov 25, 2004 by Jan Hrutfiord

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On the Waterfront

By Jan Hrutfiord

The local fishing fleet has been busy with salmon fishing for chum salmon out of the Blaine harbor area. There was a successful catch for most salmon fishers for a couple of weeks in local waters, and they also have been fishing in south Puget Sound waters from Everett to Hood Canal. Reports are that there were good catches on several of the days fishing was allowed. The chum salmon is not as good for eating as sockeye or kings, but the roe from the chum is highly prized by those who process and sell salmon roe to their customers, mainly in Japan. To take the roe, the entire fish must be used according to our laws, and much of the chum salmon is used for smoked salmon, some sold for fresh fish consumption, and this salmon is the main one used by Ivars Seafood restaurants, as well as other restaurants, for their barbecued fish.
Crab fishing is ongoing, mostly by local fishers now, as the catch has dwindled down enough that checking the pots daily is no longer financially viable. Most crabbers now check their pots once or twice a week.

The annual fishermen’s convention (Fish Expo) was held in the convention center in Seattle earlier this month, with many exhibits of the newest equipment and gadgets, and important meetings on new regulations that local fishers need to know. This was one of the few places where fishers could give their own testimony to officials regarding new or possible new regulations for the fishing industry.
New proposed regulations include a reduction of Bristol Bay salmon licenses - possibly as low as 800 licenses from the approximately 1,900 licenses now in use. The state of Alaska is proposing this reduction but, as far as I know, do not have a buy-back in mind at this time. It will be interesting to see how this reduction may take place, and is critical for those who hold licenses to know what is going to happen to their financial interests in this fishery. The majority of Bristol Bay licenses are held by Washington state fishers.

Another buy-back, this one federal, was held to reduce the King Crab fleet in Alaskan waters. The $98 million dollar buy-back was to reduce the fleet by 25 boats, and is a loan program, which will be paid for by those who continue fishing for king crab. A certain percentage of each boat’s catch payment will be taken and sent on to repay this loan. This is the same way that the buy-back for local draggers is being repaid, as those who continue fishing benefit from having less competition for the bottom fish, and will pay for the privilege by paying a percentage of each catch to the government until the loan is paid.

The migratory ducks and geese have been arriving in Blaine waters in large numbers now. Huge flocks of pintails, mallards, geese and other ducks can be seen off Marine Park, as well as around Drayton Harbor and Birch Bay. This annual winter migration to our waters is necessary for the birds, who need protected waters for their winter feeding and care before heading north again next spring. We benefit by being able to enjoy the beautiful birds, and also by having birders come here to see them in their winter numbers. Financially, these tourists help our local merchants.

Remember that the birds are beautiful to watch, but do not get too close, as they need to conserve their energy and stock up on nutrients for the long trips back to their summer grounds. If you are close enough to the birds that they start to move away, you are too close! Please respect their space and back off. Thanks!