"High Seas" IUU driftnets prevail over sustainable tuna fisheries
24 Dec 2010
"High Seas" Driftnets still prevail over Sustainable Tuna Fisheries!
TO: NMFS, NOAA, WCPFC, & United Nations 11/17/10
From: F/V “OCEAN JOY”, US Doc. # 554321, Captain John Harder; co- founder of Ocean Friends Against Driftnets (OFAD)
Summary of 2010 North Pacific Albacore troll season.
Before setting out for fishing this season, I, John Harder, tried to pass on to NMFS, and the Coastal Commission, that “High Seas Driftnets” are still fishing for albacore tuna in the North Pacific. I have been reporting Illegal, Unreported, and Unidentified (IUU) driftnet activity for the past 10 years with pictures of driftnet marked fish & driftnet vessel sightings on our international fishing grounds.
We left San Diego on the 26th of June for fishing. On the 30th of June we landed our 1st of many gill net marked fish. The fish were averaging 15 lbs. These were well marked fish that would indicate targeted in 2009 (picture marked “A”). After moving north to the area of 45%N X 126% W, approximately 70 miles off the coast of Oregon, school fish, averaging 10-12 lbs started showing up with both heavy to light gill net markings on them (pictures B-G). These driftnet markings were fresh and indicate driftnet activity done earlier this year. The fish were not old enough to be marked in years past. They are only average 2 years old. Many fish were scuffed up with broken fins & tails. We landed drift net marked fish every day. We ended our trip on the 26th of July. I tried notifying NMFS to arrange for an observer, but to no avail. I submitted my log information, hoping that it would be addressed at the technical & compliance comity for the WCPFC. It was not brought forward!
Trip # 2
We left Westport, WA. On the 30th of July for off- shore. Approximately 800 miles west of the coast, in the area of 47.30N X 143.30W, we started catching fish again. These fish were sometimes heavily marked by IUU High Seas driftnets. We averaged 20% marked fish for the trip. Many of the 12 lb fish had light scratches & were barely visible to the untrained eye. The schools of fish were not staying in the same location, but migrating into the east towards the west coast. We ended our trip into Westport, WA, on the 26th of August. I submitted many pictures along with my log information hoping that it would be addressed at the technical & compliance committee for the WCPFC.It was ignored!
Trip # 3
We set out for off-shore once again on the30th of August, only to get stopped in the approximate area of 47.30N X 139W for fishing. The 12-13 lb avg. fish we were landing were relatively clean. We had very few driftnet marked fish and a more uniform size in the grade of fish. This was obviously a different “run” of fish moving east towards the coast. We heard reports of a bigger run of fish being landed in the area of 44.30N X 128W (inside US EEZ) with a major amount of fish having drift net markings on them. The avg. size of this fish was 12 lbs. As I had suspected, the fish from off-shore on the previous trip had migrated into the coastal waters and was now spreading up & down the west coast. I talked with Canadian aircraft boarder patrol on the 9th of September. Canadian Patrol was not aware of any IUU driftnet fishing vessels sighted previously this year. Most of the driftnet marked fish landed this trip were in the 15-17 lbs size. We ended our trip on the 26th of September in Westport, WA. I sent pictures of driftnet marked fish, along with my "log book" information to NMFS hoping that it would be addressed at the technical & compliance committee for the WCPFC. Nothing was mentioned!!
Trip # 4
We left Westport on the 29th of September for fishing on the coast. On October 3rd, we landed 7 driftnet marked fish in the area of 42.30N X 126.20W. These fish avg. 15-17 lb. We were only 50- 70 miles off the coast of Northern California. I am submitting 9 pictures with this letter & "log book" information to NMFS (pictures # 1-8). I understand that the technical & compliance meeting has already taken place which does not seem appropriate, unless people are trying hard to avoid this situation, in which case is convenient. I will be making this letter public & bring it with me to the WCPFC in HA. In Dec.
Time & time again, we have proven, with our US tagging programs for albacore tuna, that stocks of albacore generally migrate east & west across the North Pacific. I personally have followed schools of fish starting in the area of 163E - 153W along the 44N latitude in a matter of 12 days. This is old news to “High Seas” troll fishermen such as me. There have been reports of good fishing in early May & June of this year by Japanese vessels. If so, they must have witnessed some IUU High Seas driftnet activity in their area, or they are driftnet vessels themselves. How ells do these migrating fish get driftnet marks?
I ask China, & Taiwan, what is the reward for your driftnet tagged fish? Where did you tag your driftnet fish? Is this incomplete data and non-compliance going to continue? Please, stand & be recognized. We all must fish fairly! Maybe I should be asking our US state department, or “Chicken of the Sea”. My fishery in International waters has been eliminated, & my coastal fishery is being depleted AGAIN! The North & South Pacific Albacore stocks should belong to sustainable hook & line fisheries, NOT driftnets!
Thanks for your time & attention in this matter.
Regards, John Harder- Captain/owner of F/V "Ocean Joy"