Ocean FAD Articles > The Pacific Fisheries Managment Council

Letter addressing Fisheries Council to No catch Quota
15 Mar 2010

The board reviewed and motioned to pass a letter written to The Pacific Fisheries Council as follows:


TO:Pacific Fisheries Management Council,                       

            NMFS, NOAA, Fellow fishermen,                                         

                & Coastal Friends of the Ocean

From:John Harder (john-boy, JB),

       F/v “Ocean Joy”

       West Coast, & High Seas Albacore Troller (Jig fisherman),

       Founder of Ocean Friends Against Driftnets (OceanFad.org)

   Dear Council,

In regards to setting limited entry, and or individual boat quotas on albacore tuna, I must request, most definitely NOT.

West Coast, & High Seas tuna trollers, & bait boats are using a “sustainable” gear type.

We should all take note, head, to this.

Sustainability is the capacity to endure.

 And believe me, we have endured plenty!

 In ecology the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time.

For humans it is the potential for long-term maintenance of wellbeing, which in turn depends on the wellbeing of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources.

So, if a sustainable fishery is healthy, then so should the ocean. If a sustainable fishery is not healthy, then neither is the sea.

To restrict, or limit such a fishery would be taking away the very meaning of the word, sustainable.

This “gear type” should set president and all focus should be put on this to enhance, preserve, observe & protect this fishery & its environment. This is/was an “existing fishery.”

According to the “Code of Collection” Title 16, 1826.Large-Scale driftnet fishing, paragraph (D) International agreements, subparagraph (9) it states “The taking of nontarget fish species, marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, and endangered species or other species protected by international agreements to which the United States is a party is minimized and does not pose a threat to”existing fisheries” or the long-term health of living marine resources; and …

I feel we should be protected just as the sharks, & my brother the turtle. It’s my dolphin & whale friends that sent me to you. It’s the albatross birds that lead me to fish! Why would I want to harm them? Sometimes there are many of them. That’s when we do our best! I speak not only in my fishery’s behalf, but for the Ocean’s Life which comes 1st. If we want to save our ocean’s natural recourses, including the Highly Migratory Species, we must uphold the “Code of Conduct”. Here, on the West Coast, we have the most sustainable means of fishing albacore tuna in the entire world, yet we are NOT supporting it. Why? The canneries do not support us, NOAA & NMFS do little for us, yet everyone claims to WANT to support sustainable fishing.

The Code of Collection Title 16, 1826. Large-scale driftnet fishing also states in paragraph (c) Policy: It is declared to be the policy of the Congress in this section that the United States should; subparagraph (3) secure a permanent ban on the use of the destructive fishing practices, and in particular large-scale driftnets, by persons or vessels fishing beyond the exclusive economic zone of any nation. If you truly want to support the Ocean & sustainable fishing, then “BAN” the unsustainablefishing “gear type”, “high seas driftnets” and FAST!

The West Coast Albacore Trollers are NOT all healthy. We are only healthy inside the EEZ, but our “High Seas” fleet has been depleted for over 6 years now. American & Canadian High Seas albacore vessels landed as much tonnage as the coast, 10 years ago. We were just getting the fishery going good, when we were invaded by high seas driftnets, starting in 2001. This was our 3rd death to the High Seas Drift net fleet. They wiped out our existing fishery in the 80’s ending the midway fishery, then again in the South Pacific in 1989. We only had 6 driftnet free years in the north pacific & we were taking 4,000- 5,000 tons per year on the high seas up until the return of some 70 high seas driftnet vessels, mainly from Taiwan, China, & Indonesia.

We were left for slaughter. Like Lions for Lambs, caught up in a struggle over harvesting our high seas tuna stocks, again, & we thought we would be protected… Instead we were sold out, and our ocean’s natural resources along with us.

Taiwan, who’s preferred “gear type” is large-scale driftnets, not longlineing, has been importing an average of 30,000 tons of albacore per year into the US. This was 2-3 times more than any other country. Are you sure that none of this fish is from Illegal Unreported Unidentified (IUU) high seas drift net fishing? Where is Taiwan’s sustainable jig fleet?

We humbly request to the council to reverse the order of things. Please ask NMFS & NOAA to go back to the WCPFC and tell them we are maintaining, as the fishery maintains itself, and therefore not limiting fishing effort, but encouraging growth to expand our high seas trolling fleet back to what our potential was in 1999. International conservation measures should only apply where there is a need for change or action. “If it works, don’t fix it”. We have had no restrictions for 60+ years & we do NOT need them now.

 I ask the council to pass on to NMFS & NOAA a request to WCPFC & IATTC for all countries involved in High Seas Driftnets, such as Taiwan, Indonesia, PRC, Viet Nam? To produce a Troll fishery in their own states as soon as possible, as proof that high seas driftnets are, no longer, the preferred “gear type” of choice. Trolling & Loglines go hand in hand, unlike trollers & driftnets, which are in constant conflict. I also request an investigation be made as to exactly how much tonnage has been taken from such HSDN states and where the fish was sold. A request for this tonnage is to be deducted from quotas set for such states, and reissued to sustainable fisheries such as Trolling & or Bait fishing from any states interested in pursuing high seas albacore stocks responsibly. I would be glad to help in away way possible & only require appropriate funding from interested states.

 I would like to thank the counsel for the request to the WCPFC for a three year assessment of the albacore stocks as opposed to longer. I do not understand why NMFS did not include the major negative impact of high seas driftnets in the 2006 assessment, except to hide the fact. At the time of this assessment, there was NO production off shore. Fishermen reported net marked fish & driftnet sightings directly, but NMFS fails to pass this on in reports to congress, or include them in other reports such as stock assessments. Even the Coast Guard reports & Northern Committee neglect to mention that the “off shore” jig fleet may be in trouble on account of the large-scale high seas driftnet activity. It would make sense if when our stock assessment showed signs of decline, while high seas driftnet activity was increasing, don’t you think?

 After delivering a documented report to the WCPFC on encountering 14 driftnet vessels in the north pacific in 2005, I returned to the north pacific to find even more high seas driftnet vessels in the same area. There were ninety eight sightings all together in 2006, and NO convictions, if you did not know. (see chart 1 from NOAA) Most of these IUU vessels are from China, Taiwan & Indonesia. All three states are involved in importing fish into our country threw the (big three) canneries now belonging to Asian countries. The state department said to me “China owns US”. I ask the counsel, dose China own the Ocean too? I documented the 2006 report & shared it with the WCPFC, but they showed me no support. I got the evil eye & a lot of cold shoulders.

   And what about the “Code of conduct”? Where is our support? Is NOAA so bold as to buy & sell the oceans natural resources right out from under their own sustainable fishing fleet?

   The way I see it, I have no rights to the “Code of conduct”, being USA does not recognize the “Law of the Sea”. Therefore NOAA can impose on my fishery any time they want. This is not honorable; therefore NOAA has no honor or respect towards sustainable fishing. This is not justice; therefore NOAA does not stand up for Justice. If you want to know about fish, go to the fishermen.

I would like to recall 1981 off the coast of Monterey, CA during a very sustainable “hook and line” rock cod fishery that NOAA, imposed upon us, the introduction the gillnets given to the Vietnamese immigrants. This fishery not only infringed on our benefits, it destroyed our Ocean’s natural resources & envirement. NOAA did not ask our permission, nor did they take our sound advice then to BAN gillnets. Instead, we were encouraged by NMFS to try gillnets, opening up the door for this unsustainablegear type” & closing the door to sustainable fishing. Sustainable fishermen tried to report to the counsel, & never returned to the sea to harvest our natural resorses again. Instead, trawllers (unsustainable) are allowed to take fish & forced to discard 60%-80% (as of now) of their take, as non target species, back into the sea. This should be totally unacceptable! If we were to use our wisdom from the hook and line fishery, we would have a perfectly viable fishery up & down the coast harvesting maximum sustainable yield, putting hundreds of west coast fishermen, and markets, to work & feeding the west coast fresh sustainable rock cod! The stocks are the healthiest they have ever recorded, if you did not know.

   The “Code of Conduct”, from what I understand it to be, is a gentleman’s agreement, or an unwritten law internationally known between mariners and fishermen that no one fishery can impose a threat on another. That all mariners should respect each other as not to interfere with each other’s fishing operations, or production. One of the golden rules is to aid and assist one another in time of need, even in adverse conditions. We must stop and help one another, no matter what!”NO MAN DOWN”, “NO BOAT LEFT BEHIND”. We do not dissert our partner.  American fishermen know this code well & for the most part, abide by it, or perish. It’s inbreeded in us. Our forefathers wrote this code & our country was built by it. It is our Honor and duty! Our Government agencies should also be bound by this. Yet our government has been allowed to exploit it. Please, listen to the fishermen; we have so much to teach you. Do not take everything we give you away from us! Our west coast has an abundant supply of natural resources. Allow us to harvest them sustainably & responsibly with one gear type, “hook and line”. Our preferred “gear type”, at one time, if you did not know. That gives everyone a chance and a choice, including the fish!

   Back to Albacore tuna, please keep in mind, our sustainable tuna fishery is not subsidized. We pay high fuel prices and are privately owned. We are not company boats, and are not receiving any benefits. Unlike our Asian competition, or Viet Nam, or France whom have given millions to the driftnet fishermen to reinvest in sustainable fishing methods, only to be used to purchase more nets. The albacore tuna price is set by the world market. Too much driftnet fish on the world market just drives the world market price down. Most fishermen are like me. When I leave port, I have nothing in the bank to fall back on. If I miss One Trip & come into port with no fish, I will lose everything. All it takes is one bad trip, & I can’t get back out again. Many American fishermen, like myself, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, building boats to fish off shore on the pretence that the UN moratorium would give us the right, as an existing sustainable hook & line fishery, to the high seas tuna stocks. We spent over 70,000.00 (USD) on fuel & food alone, only to come back to the coast with empty holds. What was a sure thing, now turned into impossibility? Nobody in their right mind, not even me, would go off shore knowing that there might be driftnets on the high seas. This puts more pressure on the coastal fishery. You can see these big “off shore” vessels scattered up and down the coast. All for sale cheep. Some vessels were lucky, or smart enough to get into other fisheries such as the longline fisheries. I for one feel that I should be compensated for my loss. I know they pay farmers not to grow. I would have rather been somewhere ells if they were going to rape my fishing grounds! Just like in the eighties, it’s only a matter of time before the coastal stocks start to decline to less than 1/2 a ton per day average if high seas driftnets persist.

 Please permit me to give a rundown of the history of our High Seas tuna fleet with information given from NMFS’s web site on foreign imports of albacore tuna correlation.

Many US sailors returned to the sea after WW2 as tuna trollers who were spread up & down the coast. It was not unheard of to venture 300-500 miles off shore in the fifties & sixties, although much of the production was close to the mouth of the Columbia River. We were the cannery’s mainstay, until foreign fishing production influenced canners to move to the western pacific. As production “Off Shore” increased, so did our boats. By the mid 70’s, some 20-30 vessels were filling record loads on the dateline and thus the “midway fishery” was born. At this time, high seas driftnet boats fishing for squid & salmon were observed by the jig fleet. We watched, as they discarded (shoveled overboard) tons of small juvenile albacore back into the sea. They were not targeting albacore at this time, so “existing fishery” jig boats, were not concerned. By the next year in 1978, driftnet boats were targeting tuna & us. We would wake up with nets all around the boat. Some trollers spent all day trying to get clear of the nets. Our propeller’s were fouled, were afraid to travel at night taking a chance on running over driftnets.

77’-68,000 total tons imported to US. #1 Japan-20,000, #2) Taiwan- 12,000, #3) S.Korea-6,000

78’-80,000 total tons imported to US. #1 Japan-17,000, #2) Taiwan-14,000, #3Psfc Ils.-4,000

79’-88,000 total tons imported to US. #1 S. Korea-22,000, #2 Japan-20,000, #3Taiwan-16,000

We reported to WFOA, NMFS, but nothing was done to stop them from running us off the ocean. Our “Midway fishery” collapsed by the mid 80’s, while Taiwan increased its imports to the US, taking over the #1 spot.

82’-71,000 total tons imported to US. #1 Taiwan- 24,000, #2 Japan- 19,000

86’- 78,000 total tons imported into US. #1 Taiwan-37,000, #2 Japan-10,000, #3 S. Africa-5,000

87’- 84,000 total tons imported into US. #1 Taiwan- 50,000, #2 Japan- 9,000

   In an attempt to regain a fishery & provoked by the (big 3) tuna canners, US & Canadian tuna trollers headed for the south pacific in 87’where we found good tuna fishing stocks. Only to have the driftnet fleet follows us down under two years later. We were astounded. The canners assured us that this would not happen, but it did. We perished for the 2ndtime.

89’- 99,000 total tons imported into US #1 Taiwan-52,000, #2 Thailand- 9,000, none from Japan

90’- 71,000 total tons imported into US. #1 Taiwan-32,000, #2 Japan-8,000, #3 Thailand- 3,000

91’-64,000 total tons imported into US.  #1 Taiwan-36,000, #2 Thailand, #3 Japan-4,000

In 1991, I was fortunate to receive a fuel subsidy from ARFF to do stock assessments west of the dateline. There was nothing but small, undersize tuna & driftnets. One of the observers onboard a driftnet vessel who was reporting to the UN from NMFS told me that there was going to be a moratorium on driftnets. I was overjoyed & thought it to be as a BAN. The observer commented that they would be back after about 8-10 years. I was shocked! How could NOAA do this? Sure enough, the High Seas Driftnet never quit fishing with their destructive nets, but simply moved over to another ocean and started raping the Indian Ocean. Notice how Taiwan never slowed down in their imports all threw the 90’s. Even while our US jig production went up, foreign imports stayed relatively stable in spite of the UN moratorium on High Seas Driftnets.

92’-71,000 total tons imported into the US. #1 Taiwan- 33,000

93’-70,000 total tons imported into the US. #1 Taiwan- 35,000

94’- 69,000 total tons imported into the US. #1 Taiwan- 38,000

95’- 70,000 total tons imported into the US. #1 Taiwan- 31,000

96’- 67,000 total tons imported into the US. #1 Taiwan- 26,000

97’- 67,000 total tons imported into the US. #1 Taiwan- 26,000

98’ -70,000 total tons imported into the US. #1 Taiwan- 29,000

99’-82,000 total tons imported to the US. #1Taiwan- 40,000, #2Thailand-12,000, #3 Japan-7,000

From 1994 to 2000, High Seas Tuna Trollers did great, without the driftnets interfering with our fishing. We had good fishing, but canners would not buy our fish. We sat tied up to the dock with record trips in the middle of the season while Taiwan imported fish to the US. We started finding alternate markets in Canada & Europe, but by then, it was too late.

By 2001, the drift net fleet returned to the North Pacific & We were history again. We reported sightings, but nothing was done in time. Please recall that it only takes one bad trip to put us under. We died a slow death as I struggled to make reports to the WCPFC & to NMFS filling out logs & taking pictures. Again, we had no support.

Now please take note to what happens to the imports shortly after 2000.

2000’- 67,000 total tons imported into US. #1 Taiwan- 28,000

01’- 61,000 total tons imported into US. #1 Taiwan- 24,000

02’- 43,000 total imports into US. #1Thailand- 9,000, #2 Ecuador- 9,000, #3 Granadine-4,000. Taiwan only sent 2,000 tons this year. Why? Total import tonnage is down 10,000.

03’- 43,000 total tons imported to the US. #1Thailand-8,000, #2 Ecuador- 7,000, None from Taiwan

04’- 34,000 total tons imported to US. #1 Thailand- 7,000, #2 Eqidore-7,000, None from Taiwan.

05’-27,000 total tons imported into US. #1Thailand- 7,000, #2 Equidore-7,000, #3 Indonesia- 5,000

06’- 26,000 total tons imported into US. #1 Thailand 6,000, #2 Equidore3,000, #3 Indonesia- 5,000

07’- 28,000 total tons imported into the US. #1 Thailand- 8,000, #2 Indonesia- 5,000, Ecuador- 3,000

08’- 27,000 total tons imported into US. #1 Thailand- 9,000, #2 Indonesia- 3,000

09’-25,000 total tons imported into the US. #1 Thailand- 9,000, #2 Indonesia- 3,000

   In conclusion, it seems odd to me that Taiwan stopped importing fish into the US in 2002. It’s hard to believe that our imports would drop from 67,000 – 26,000 in a matter of 5 years time. Cutting out 40,000 tons of albacore in imports. Down to less than ½ the normal 60-80,000 tons.

   Is America eating less albacore? Did the US stop buying for institution pack? This raises a few questions. Maybe NOAA or the canneries can shed some light on the subject. Seems strange that Costco’s isles were full of pallets of fish selling for cheep at this time & High Seas driftnet activity was high in the mid 00’s. There is a lot of fish that seems to be missing, or is the Ocean so depleted that we cannot fill the order of 70,000 tons of imports per year anymore.

Please, I erg the counsel to put a stop to IUU fishing. Sanctions should have been in place years ago, not sanctuaries. Let’s fish sustainably & responsibly. The public of should be aware that our US name brands do not belong to US anymore & have not supported US fishermen for the past 30 years. They belong to the countries that support IUU fishing. Show the world we care about the Ocean as much as anyone. “BANdriftnets world -wide! It will be easy to manage only one “gear type”,” hook and line”, especially since it will manage itself.

Please, do not be misled by the propaganda fed to you from NOAA, & NMFS and the tuna industry. They are misleading us. They only want to stop US from producing seafood products, so America will buy more foreign fish to pay back some interest on the money we owe. I ask the council to ask the NMFS what is the price of the Ocean these days? I don’t know about you, but the ocean is priceless to me & always has been. That is why I choose this sustainable fishery.

   Please keep in mind, “You cannot pluck the splinter out of someone else’s eye, if you have a log in yours”

   Thank you for your time and attention.

   Sincerely, John Harder

F/V Ocean Joy

   HMS Albacore Tuna fisherman,

Founder of Ocean Friends against Driftnets (OceanFad.org) 

John Harder