Ocean FAD Articles > IUU Driftnet fishing detection returns in 2012

OFAD observed West Coast Albacore Troll fishing aboard f/v “Ocean Joy”
22 Sep 2012

 

July 29th 2012,
 “Ocean Joy” departs from Moss Landing, Monterey Bay, CA. heading North off the Coast of Oregon. The fishing reports sound best in the Columbia River area.  Winds are 15-20 kts with a 3-4 foot swell. Rough weather is expected.
 
The vessel is in poor condition to sail. We have been Tied up to the dock for a while and still need to tie things down and stow away supplies.
My crew, who happen to be my kids this year, Gracie, Rey, & Dylan are eager to get underway. We all worked hard on the boat for the past 4 months and it was past time to go fishing. This is the 1st trip ever to have my children as my entire crew. I feel so blessed and proud.
                                 
Last year showed only 2-5 % overall driftnet scratched fish. The lowest percent in years. Knowing that the Albacore stocks are down, only catching 50% of normal catch rate last year, I am not too optimistic. It will be 3-4 years before the Albacore stocks recover, that’s if the driftnets are out of the water now.
The Albacore season got started early. Some sizable daily catches began in mid June. Some lucky vessels have 20-30 ton landed already.
Heading Northwest, Speed 5-6 knots.
 
July 30th - 3 miles off point Arena with rough weather. 3-5 foot seas with 20 knots of wind. Heading North, speed 5 knots.
July 31st - 3 miles off Gorda Point. Winds 25-30 knots with 5 foot swell. Going slow, but still making headway.
Aug. 1st - Strait off Point Blanco by 5 pm.. Weather still rough, but subsiding in the evening. Changed coarse to West northwest. Hopes to be fishing by morning.
Aug. 2nd - 44.03N X 125.29W App. 100 miles west of Newport, Oregon. Weather moderate with 15 knots of wind with a 3 foot swell.
We crossed a water edge at 9 am, and started catching fish. Right away my son Rey yelled out “NET MARKED FISH”. I grabbed our camera and headed to the stern. Sure enough, the third fish landed had light scratch marks going down it’s side.
                               
We were surprised to see driftnet marked fish, as we had hoped this was going to be like last year with very few driftnet marked fish on the coast. We were devastated, as all threw the day, 30% of our catch showed gill net scratches.
I quickly contacted other vessels in the area to put the word out. Other vessels informed me that they have had driftnet marked fish for the past month in the area. Other fishermen  mentioned that a high percentage of driftnet marked Tuna were detected close to the beach off the Columbia River. I voiced my concern and requested that fishermen be sure to enter the findings in their log books, and to take pictures of the fish. The response I got was the same as before. “Why?” know body will do anything about it anyway.” “Waist of time” they told me…
We were so down hearted. All this work to promote this fishery in a sustainable way, to be fished out by IUU driftnets. Such an injustice.
151 fish caught, 12 lb average, 0 discards, 0 by-catch, 40+ driftnet marked fish.
                                             
Aug. 3rd - 44.15N X 125.44W- Weather increased to 20-25 knots of wind with a 4 foot swell. Auto pilot quit working and had to hand steer most of the day. With rough weather and steering by hand made it difficult to take pictures of the driftnet marked fish. We had to focus on our new Refrigerated Sea Water (RSW) fish tubs, making sure the fish did not slosh around and get damaged. We have been taking fish pictures for years and getting nowhere. NMFS and NOAA have seen tons of pictures of driftnet marked fish, and do nothing. This is so frustrating! Why does nobody protect us.
168 Albacore landed, 12 lb average, 0 disregards, 0 by-catch, and 50+ driftnet marked Tuna.
                                          
Aug. 4th - 44.28N X 126.00W- Weather moderating to 15-20 knots of wind, with 2 foot swell. We wondered too far to the west and got into colder water with very few fish. Body of fish seemed to be moving Northeast, nothing to the West.
4 Albacore caught, avg wt. 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and 1 fish scratched by driftnet.
                                 
Aug. 5th - 44.30W X 124.40W- Weather coming down to 15 kts of wind from the NW. We traveled East threw the night.
Main engine started overheating. Water spraying out of injector tube. We shut down( stopped), the engine and pulled injector. We made repairs, but realized that the injector was not the only problem. Coolant water was now running into the engine at an alarming rate. In order to save the engine from any further damage, we must get towed into port. I called out to my fellow fishermen whom we work closely with as a group. Soon a vessel was on the way to give us a tow into Newport, Oregon.
                                                               
This was very disheartening. We finally got to the fishing grounds and catching fish, but had to leave. Boats all around us were having good catches, and we had to go in for repairs. 
Thanks to God for the favorable weather and the kindness of fellow fishermen to lend us a hand.
Aug. 6th - Entered into Newport, Org. and tied up to the dock at 9am. Started disassembling main engine, and making contact with Newport Diesel mechanic to assess the situation and locate the problem. Come to the conclusion that 1 of the 2 heads on the engine had a large crack in it. We were going to be in port for a week rebuilding the engine.
           
 
           
Newport Oregon is a beautiful harbor and one of the most favorite ports among the Albacore Tuna fleet. Newport is a very active port in the fishing industry with lots of vacilities  catering their fishermen. From the marine stores to electronic experts to the fish plants, Newport takes their fishing serious. Unlike the fishing ports in California that have been dwindling down to nothing for the past 20 years, Newport rocks!
Newport also happens to be the new “Home Base” for NOAA. NOAA now has 3-4 large 2-300 foot research vessels, tied up in Newport, that were moved down from the old base in Seattle, WA. This was to bring more work and revenue into the area, but still remains to be seen. 
I got the impression that the locals of Newport were not happy with NOAA being there.
 
It just so happened that NOAA was sponsoring a Albacore Cook-off at the Port Dock Marina. There was to be some old cars parked up and 14 different ways of cooking Albacore Tuna. People were given ballets and asked to vote for their favorite flavor.
I thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce OFAD to the people of Newport, NOAA, by wearing our colorful T shirts to their event.
          
WOW, we had a great time taste testing that tuna!
There was Albacore cooked in Coconut, coffee and chocolate, sweet orange, fruit, and lemon sauce. There was deep fried with bear batter, smoked Albacore, and Albacore Tuna spread. What a wonderful array of ways to enjoy the good taste of Albacore Tuna.
Myself, Gracie, and 2 other OFAD members, Candy and Gary Muslin from the vessel “Blue Dolphin”, and the boys, Dylan and Rey, all mingled around the different booths savoring the flavors. Being that all of us were veterans to the different ways of preparing Albacore, we tended to be a bit critical. The only problem was there was hardly anyone around to compare our opinions with. It was a no show. 
With lots of fish and not enough people, it made it too easy to gorge ourselves. I think we made an impression, as our wave of blue green T shirts kept bumping into the same people. We cast our votes at the last moment and sat down to see who was going to win the cook-off. It was the Fruity Marinade, our pick, that Won. Other awards were given for best in their category.
All in all, it was a great event and hope to see it again next year. I noticed one particularly favorite way to cook Albacore Tuna that was not presented. There was no bacon wrapped Albacore. Maybe OFAD should enter next year’s event!
 
Aug. 14th - Sailed out of Newport at 9 pm. Hope to be fishing in the AM.
Aug. 15th - 44.16N X 126.10W- weather is 2 foot swell with 15 knots of wind. Engine seemed to be running well.
204 fish landed, 12 lb average weight, 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and over 60 fish with drift net marks on their sides.
Aug. 16th - 44.35N X 126.11W- Calm weather conditions.
217 Albacore landed, 12 lb. avg. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and 40+ Tuna scratched by driftnets.
Aug. 17th - 44.39N X 126.02W- Calm weather conditions.
145 Albacore landed, 12 lb. avg. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, 40+ Albacore scratched by drift nets.
Aug. 18th - 44.40 X 126.00W- Good weather conditions.
234 Albacore caught, 12 lb avg. wt. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and over 50 fish observed to have driftnet marks before we stopped counting.
              
 
It is sad to know that just 70 miles west of the “home base” of NOAA is showing proof of IUU drifnet activity, yet NOAA does not recognize this, nor is NOAA alarmed by it. Instead, NOAA focuses on public awareness on how to prepare the Albacore for eating. Who is supposed to protect this resource from pirate fishing?
All it takes is one good man to do nothing, for evil to prosper. Thanks NOAA & NMFS for nothing.
                                 
 
Aug. 19th - 44.18N X 125.50W- light Northwest chop with 15 knots of wind.
115 Albacore landed, 12 lb. avg. wt. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and 40+ driftnet marked Albacore.
Aug. 20th - 44.20N X 126.18W- calm seas
85 Albacore Tuna landed, Avg. wt. 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and 30 driftnet marked tuna.
Aug. 21st - 44.28N X 126.07W- Light Southwest winds with 2 foot swell.
100 Albacore landed, Avg wt. 12lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, with 20+ fish having net marks on them.
Aug. 22nd - 45.17N X 126.17W- Moved to the North. Weather remains moderate.
70 Albacore taken, avg. wt. 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, with over 20 Albacore showing net marks.
 
The smaller fish have only light scratches on them, where as the 13 lb fish have distinct darker markings on them, while the 15-18 lb fish are non existent. This indicates that the fish passed threw driftnets earlier this same year. Otherwise this fish would not be scratched at such a small weight class. Most vessels in the area are experiencing large schools of Albacore that will not come to the surface to bite the jigs. The Tuna are very temperamental, and do not follow the vessel as normal. This is a common trait of tuna fish that have already passed threw a driftnet. It seems as if the fish “cower” beneath the surface instead of the usual trait to follow the vessel close behind. Only the experienced fishermen would notice this and not be led to believe the fish are just “off the bite”.
 
Aug. 23rd - 46.48N X 125.53W- Moved further North. Seas and wind are moderate.
69 Albacore Tuna Taken, avg. wt. 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, with more then 20 tuna fish showing scratches from IUU driftnets.
Aug. 24th - 45.50N X 125.53W- Moved Southwest. Weather increased to 25 knots of wind with 3-4 foot swell.
37 Albacore Tuna landed, 12 lb avg. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and 8 fish scratched by driftnets.
Aug. 25th - 44.20 X 126.30W- Moved to the South with moderate weather.
443 Albacore taken, Avg wt. 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, & over 100 fish with driftnet marks.
                                    
Aug. 26th - 44.12N X 128.04W- Moved to the west threw the night. Seas increased to 20-25 knots Northwest with a 3 foot swell.
384 Albacore taken, 12 lb avg. wt. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, & over 70 Tuna with driftnet marks.
Aug. 27th - 44.10N X 128.09W- Same area, Seas calm.
233 Albacore Tuna Taken, avg.wt.12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and 30+ drift net scratched Albacore.
Aug. 28th - 44.12N X 128.01W- same area with good weather.
414 Albacore caught, avg. wt. 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and over 70 drift net marked Tuna.
            
 
This new outside area seems to have less driftnet marked fish at around 20%, but also has smaller fish, mainly to the south. Reports of 9-10 lb fish further to the south, but no major schools indicating an abundance of peanuts for next year. Reports of almost unscathed 18-25 lb Albacore close to the beach. Although I get very little information from the bait boats, I understand that the larger fish have only 2-5% driftnet marks on them. This would make sence as that was the same persentage of the driftnet marked fish new had last year on the 12 lb class. From 3 year old to 4 year old, same percentage. Question is, for the 3rd year in a row, Where are the 14-18 lb Albacore? In the nets! In your stores.
 
Aug. 29th - 43.56N X 127.54W- Fair weather
270 Tuna landed, 12 lb avg. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, with 40+ drift net marked Tuna.
Aug. 30th - 44.00N X 128.00W- Weather came up to 30 knots Northwest. Refridgeration compressor not working properly. Shut down for maintenance. Swap over compressors.
Aug. 31st - 44.00N X 128.00W- Weather still rough in the same area.
277 Albacore taken, 12 lb avg. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and 40+ drift net marked Albacore.
September 1st - 43.45N X 128.13W- Moved to the South with weather moderating at 15 knots of Northwest wind.
547 Albacore landed, avg. wt. 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch & over 100 gill net scratched fish.
 
I want to say a special thanks to the US State department high up official Mr. William (Bill) Gibons-fly, head of US Delegation to the WCPFC. Thanks for nothing! Your so kind. Don’t put sanctions on these countries like China, or Thailand, that violate the Law. That would hurt business. All it takes is one good man…
                                    
 
Sep. 2nd- 43.40N X 128.13W-  Same area with fair weather.
407 Albacore Tuna caught, 12 lb avg. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, with over 100 gill net scratched fish.
Sep. 3rd - Same general area with seas building and 25 knots of wind.
331 Albacore caught, avg wt. 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and 60+ driftnet marked tuna.
Sep. 4th - 43.18N X 128.22W- Moved Southwest and ran into cooler water with less fish. 
70 Albacore landed, 12 lb avg wt. 0 discards, 0 by catch, and 10+ albacore with driftnet scratches.
Sep. 5th - 43.30 X 128.00W- Moved back to the Northwest with rough sea conditions.
164 Albacore taken avg wt 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by catch, and over 30 tuna scratched by driftnets.
Sep. 6th - Same area with moderate sea conditions. 
208 Albacore landed avg wt 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and 40+ gill net marked fish.
Sep. 7th - Same area with 15-20 knots of wind and moving slightly to the East. 
113 Tuna landed, avg wt. 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and 30+ drift net marked Tuna.
Sep. 8th - Same area and weather conditions.
179 Albacore caught avg wt 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and 40+ scratched tuna.
 
Every day we see scratched up fish come over the rail as a constant reminder of how our clean and sustainable fishery is doomed by the IUU pirate driftnet fleet from China and Taiwan. These same countries that supply and own our US brands “Chicken of the Sea,” “Bumble Bee,” and “Starkist”.
                                       
Thanks for nothing “Chicken of the Sea”! Shame on you!
                                     
Sep. 9th - 43.30N X 127.52W- Weather is kind
479 Albacore landed, avg wt 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and close to 100 drift net scratched fish detected.
Sep. 10th - Same area with increasing weather.
284 Tuna captured avg wt 12 lbs. 0 thrown back, 0 by-catch, and over 50 fish with driftnet scratches on them.
Sep.11th - Same area with worse weather. 25 knots of wind with 3 foot swell.
101 fish landed avg wt 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and 15 Albacore scratched by driftnets.
Sep. 12th - 43.40N X 128.20W- Moved to the West and into cooler water with less fish. 
28 Albacore landed, avg 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch and 4 driftnet marked fish.
Sep. 13th - 43.50N X 127.50- Moved back to the east with moderate sea conditions.
189 Albacore caught avg wt. 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch and 30+ drift net scratched Albacore.
Sep. 14th - Same area with 15-20 knots of wind.
110 Albacore caught, avg wt 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and 14 drift net scratched Tuna.
Sep. 15th- Same area with same weather conditions.
223 Albacore taken avg wt 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, with 27 drift net marked Tuna.
                  
 
This year is the 1st in decades to not have Canadian fishing vessels allowed in our US EEZ. US coastal fishing effort has been reduced by 50% because of this. This has helped US fishermen in this spotty fishing. Most spots of fish will only hold up to 3-10 boats instead of the normal 20-50 vessels. Catch rate per vessel has been better, as overcrowded areas are unproductive.  Have heard many positive comments from fellow US fishermen, grateful for having no Canadian vessels in our US waters.
If the Canadian Fleet of 100 vessels were to partake in fishing this year, it would have been a disaster! 
Less fish, less boats makes sense.
                                         
 
Sep.16th - 43.57N X 127.29W- Weather starting to freshen.
276 Albacore taken avg wt 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, with 40+ driftnet marked Tuna.
Sep. 17th - Same area with 20 knots of chop.
245 Albacore taken avg wt 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, and over 50 drift net scratched Albacore observed.
Sep. 18th - 44.30N X 126.16W- Moved to the Northeast with weather moderated at 20 knots of wind.
36 fish captured avg wt 12 lbs. 0 discards, 0 by-catch, & 12 IUU drift net marked Albacore Tuna.
 
Heading back to Newport for unloading. This concludes our trip.
Every day we encountered a steady 20-30% of our Albacore Tuna with driftnet marks on them. We are not the only vessel that observes this. Just the only one to report it to the public. NMFS, NOAA, US State dep. All say nothing when it comes to reporting this crime. China does not report their yearly landings of Albacore. This is another violation that goes unpunished.
Is there not one good man that will do something?
 
Sep. 19th - Entered Newport, Oregon for unloading 41 ton.
                                        
 
              
                                 
 

Captain John Harder