OFAD's 1st Albacore Tuna Trip observed aboard f/v "Ocean Joy"
27 Jul 2011
June 26th, 2011 - F/V "Ocean Joy" sailed out of Monterey Bay, CA. heading North to start its' search for the elusive Albacore Tuna. Captain John Harder and son Dylan Harder, along with crewmembers Kevin Howes & Steven Waldon set out to observe the Albacore Tuna stocks off the West Coast. It is now early in the season, but water conditions showed favorable off the coast of Oregon.
June 30th - Position 44:00%N X 126:00%W
We caught our 1st Albacore Tuna. Sea Surface Temperature (SST) was 62.0%f. There was lots of sea life around. Bait shown on the sounder, birds and whales feeding in the area. We decided to stop and look around in the AM.
July 1st - The weather was good. We had a few other Albacore Troll boats in the area to help get located. There was a scattered sign of Albacore, but nothing concentrated.
69 fish were landed - no fish marked by driftnets.
July 2nd - In the same area. All the signs look good, but not enough fish around. We will be moving on towards the north tonight.
31 Albacore Tuna were landed - no fish marked by driftnets.
July 3rd - Position 45:00%N X 126:00%W
Weather is coming up. 20 knots of NW wind. SST still great at 62.3% Fishing boats are spreading out to help look.
51 albacore landed - no tuna net marked
July 4th - In the same area. Happy Independence Day to all. A ton a day makes it pay (we can stay) Let me explain. For Sustainable Albacore Tuna Troll Vessels to Sustain themselves, they must catch, on an average, 1 ton of Tuna per day. This is the minimal amount of fish to cover expenses. It is a standard, or "rule of thumb" set as long as I can remember. One ton of Albacore Tuna, given the average size of fish caught by trollers being 12 - 15 lbs per fish, is about 150 - 170 fish. Now every is different, so with rising fuel prices and overhead costs, this year could be more. We try to always keep in mind, "A ton a day, & we can stay." otherwise, keep looking!
54 fish landed averaging 12 - 15 lbs. No fish marked by driftnets.
July 5th - In the same area with moderate weather. Cool water edge SST 61.4%.
Only 32 albacore tuna landed & none had markings from nets.
July 6th - f/v Ocean Joy moved to the west threw the night. Pos. 44:40%N X 127:00W. Good weather & SST 62.3%
64 scattered albacore caught, no tuna had been marked.
July 7th - We moved further to the west as, all boats in a group of 20 vessels, are spreading out to look for more fish. So far, no major body of fish has moved into the coast.
45 fish caught, none marked by nets.
July 8th - We moved into a fishier location. 44:30%N X 126:50%W. Wx. good & SST warmed to 63.0%.
175 Albacore caught, & no net marked fish. YEA HA, we finally caught a (1) ton!!
July 9th - In the same area. Same conditions, except Wow, lots of other boats showed up in the area.
Only 29 fish landed. None had been net marked.
July 10th - In the same area. Wx. good & boats spreading out again. A lot of discouragement within the fleet. Only one small run of fish on the coast as of yet. The small body of tuna is made up of mostly 12 - 13 lbs fish, with a few 18 - 20 lbs fish mixed in. Thus the average weight is 14 lbs, but there are no 14 - 15 lb. fish caught.
This year class (weight class) is missing.
Today we caught our 1st driftnet scared fish for the season.
42 albacore tuna landed. 2 fish, average weight 18 lbs.
July 11th - Ocean Joy moved to the north threw the night. Pos. 45:30%N X 126:00%W. SST dropped to 62.0%
59 fish taken, none marked by nets.
July 12th - We moved further north to pos. 46:00%N X 126:00%W. wx. good & SST still 62.0%
123 tuna caught, none marked by nets. We had a good day, but still not enough.
July 13th - In the same area. Cold water edge to the north and west. Moderate weather. Many boats showed up to the area. Fishing production dropped.
80 tuna caught, 4 bigger fish showed net marked scars.
July 14th - Ocean Joy moved north to 47:00%N X 125:40%W. Crossed cold water edge SST 61.4%
Only found 18 fish for the day. No marked fish.
July 15th - In the same area. wx. is ok. We found an edge to the west.
104 fish caught, no net marks noticed.
July 16th - In the same area. We are totally over run by other boats! It seems that the whole west coast is having bad luck. Sounds like many daily scores are 30 fish or less. Not a good thing. Many of the boats are Canadian vessels. Since the albacore "Troll & Pole" fishery, on the west coast, is made up of different groups of vessels that work closely with each other, not everyone talks to each other and dose not share information freely to avoid getting over run by each other. This, in many ways, is not a good thing. This "grouping" causes segregation and breeds discrimination. We are no longer open with our fishing information. In some areas, the Canadian fleet will out number the US fleet 10 - 1.
51 tuna were captured. None marked by driftnets. Moving on.
July 17th - Ocean Joy moved south and east to pos. 46:10%N X 125:45%W. SST 62.0%
83 fish caught, and none with driftnet markings.
July 18th - Still moving South. 45:34%N X 125:45W. Same 62.0% water.
41 fish landed, none with net marks. Hard to find a area to work.
July 19th - In the position of 44:00%N X 126:00%W. wx moderate & SST warmed to 63.0%
100 fish were landed, none found with net marks.
July 20th - In the same area. Area of fish is small, but not too many other vessels (40) to compete with.
112 fish landed, none having net marks.
July 21st - In the same area. Today boats seem spread out and less in the area.
193 fish caught. None marked by nets. Wow, our second day of the trip with a ton. This is NOT good. We should be grateful though, not may have done better.
July 22nd - In the same place. Some boats returned to the area.
83 fish taken, no sign of net marks.
July 23rd - Ocean Joy moved back towards the north and west. 44:40%N X 127:00%W SST 63.1%
Only 21 fish landed. None net marked.
July 24th - New position 46:00%N X 126:00%W with moderate sea conditions. SST 62.5%
32 fish caught. None net marked
July 25th - Heading for port with building sea conditions. No fishing effort was made.
July 26th - Entered Westport, WA. f/v Ocean Joy landed 23,000 lbs ( 11.5 tons).
This catch is down 66% from last year and is only 25% of the loading capacity of the vessel.
We just barley cleared expenses and fortunate not to have any mishaps that would add to the overhead costs of the trip. Only 2 days had over, or just at, 1 ton a day.
No profit was made!
In concusion, so far, the Albacore Tuna Stocks, on the coast are not healthy! The sustainable albacore tuna fleet are hardly sustaining. There has been no major run of Tuna indicated. Although more fish is filtering in, so are more fishing vessels adding to the effort made. The general concenses in the fleet is that it has been a late year for other aspects as far as other species, or farming seasons, etc. We hope that the fish are just late.
On a more positive note, not many drift net marked fish indicated this trip. Only 4% on a given day and only in the older (18 - 20lbs) fish class.
I, on the other hand, have predicted this to be a slow season. As driftnets have been working the North Pacific for some years now, the production of the sustainable "troll & pole" will contnue to decline!