Praise GOD, 2015 marks the 1st year of no drift net scratches on North Pacific Albacore Tuna!
15 Oct 2015
July 1st, OCEAN JOY departed Port Angeles, WA. for the North Pacific Albacore troll season. The fishing season had already begun & fish were being caught just out front. We left just after midnight, and were catching fish by 3 pm, only 30 miles off shore of the Canadian/ US border. We caught 16 albacore, averaging 13 #s a piece. None were scratched.
July 2nd, moved Southwest to the area of 46:20N x 126:02W were we caught 64 Albacore & not a 1 were marked. We were pleased to observe this after last year’s high percentage of 30%.
July 3rd, Ocean Joy moved further South to 46:07N x 126:00W. We had a good day, and managed to capture 239 Albacore, and not a 1 was scratched or marked up by IUU driftnets. True, the fish being caught were only averaging 12 pounds per piece, which is a bit on the small size, but not 1 fish was marked!!! This was truly a miracle! An answer to our prayers!
July 4th, in the same area, we landed 373 Albacore, 0 were IUU driftnet marked. We were astatic.
July 5th, moved 10 miles to the East, with only catching 134 Albacore. None had been marked.
July 6th, Ocean Joy moved back to the North some 25 miles. We caught 129 Albacore
July 7th, we moved back out to the west, only catching 85 Albacore, but not 1 scratched.
July 8th, wondering towards the North, we landed 133 Albacore tuna. Not 1 fish was scratched by off shore IUU driftnets. This was unheard of for so long. We always had some kind of sign of IUU driftnet activity, catching 1 or 2, sometimes 4 or 5 scratched fish per day. I’ve been checking around the fleet, and no one has reported scratches, or driftnet marks.
Noting this year being a strong “El Nino” year with a large warm water formation close to the West Coast, all sea life conditions moved further to the North. Like last year, little to no fish were being caught in California. Boats had to go as far North as Newport, Central Oregon, to get any kind of production. Albacore fishing boats off Coose Bay (Blanco) had little to no sign, witch is almost unheard of. After checking around, I came to find out we were doing real good and in a good area comparatively speeking. There is a good sign of fish to the North into Canadian waters, so I decided to work that way.
July 9th, 47:08N x 125: 44W. Ocean Joy landed 244 albacore tuna. 0 marked fish. Today we got our ton. It’s all about the ton. “A ton a day, & we can stay.” In the trolling fleet, we have a make it, or breaking it point which is 1 ton (2000 lbs) per day. The price of fuel, or price of fish may play a big factor in where the profit or loss plays into how many fish it takes to make a buck, but rule of thumb is a ton (150-200 pieces) per day.
July 10th, we caught 74 tuna in the same area as yesterday. No marked fish
July 11th, we moved 30 miles North to find 366 hungry albacore, and none being scratched by wiggling threw a IUU driftnet.
July 12th, Ocean joy captured 251 Albacore and not 1 was scratched.
July 13th – 21st, Ocean Joy trolled back and forth across the US/Canadian border catching around a ton a day without any sign of IUU driftnet activity.
July 22nd- 29th, Ocean Joy moved slowly south from 50:18N x 128:21W – 45:55N x 125:38W. It was always the same. No driftnet marked albacore. This was truly amazing!
July 30th, Ocean Joy unloaded 33 ton in Westport WA. Come to find out the price of fish was way down to $2300 USD per ton. It was a year that Blast Bled price was the same as Brine. Japan was not interested in buying Sushi grade albacore. I found that strange. We were given all kinds of excuses for the low price. The Japanese yen was down. The fish have no oil content. The fish are not cold enough. The list goes on. Bottom line it all comes down to the fish buyer having the fishermen over a barrel. Normally, Blast Bled albacore is sold for $3800 per ton. This year the price is $2300 per ton. That’s a 30% drop in our income. That’s fishing? So sad.
August 2nd, Ocean Joy departed Westport, WA. for fishing. For the next 25 days we fished off the Washington coast. Each day was the same outcome. No gillnet scratched fish. A small to medium body of school fish, averaging 12-13 pounds, surged into the coast of Washington, then moved on. Unfortunately the biomass was less than the year before, and has been declining slowly for the past 15 years. There has been no “Big Score” reported. No 500-1,000 fish days as reported in the past. No boats finding new fish coming in from off shore, except small fish that average less than 10 pounds per piece. These small fish, we call peanuts, are not desirable. There is no market for them & we, as sustainable fishermen, do not want to catch next year’s fish. The only larger fish found were close to the shore and being caught by Bait boats. There were reports of a few bigger fish having old scares from driftnets, but not clear enough to be shown in a picture. Still, this is expected and nothing noted as recent.
August 28th, Ocean Joy returns to Westport to unload 38 tons of Bled Blast frozen Albacore.
September 3rd, Ocean Joy departed Westport for fishing.
From September 4th to October 4th, the fishing slowly dropped off. We looked high and low for bigger fish as it was hard to find a spot that would hold up to catching a ton a day. The fish size kept dropping off, with no 15-18 pound class of fish around. Only a small patch was found off the Queen Charlottes Sound in BC. That spot was well covered by the Canadians. With the production rate dropping, the fish price slowly went up to $3100 per ton. Some Japanese buyers showed some interest, but not enough, and too late. We ended our season one month early for lack of fish. We hope that the small fish seen this year will have a chance to return next year without getting stopped by IUU driftnets. It may take some time to rebuild the North Pacific Albacore stocks, but at least, with this year’s no driftnet marked fish, it’s a start!
Strangely enough, yet not surprising, there has been no reports of any IUU driftnet vessels being caught, in the North Pacific, this year. Being that there was no scratches on the fish means either the IUU fleet totally missed these fish, or did not fish this year. These IUU vessels are not prone to being tipped off if any enforcement is in their area. They also “run like the wind” when relocating. Too fast for any “Jig” boat.
To further pursue these IUU driftnet vessels. Any major drop in production coming from countries normally fishing North Pacific Albacore should raise suspicion. Chicken of the sea, Starkist, & Bumblebee tuna should willingly (claiming to be transparent) open their books to landings of Albacore Tuna for the past few years to see what fishing companies, or fishing vessels, show a sharp decline in this year’s production of Albacore. These countries, and or fishing companies should be under high surveillance and investigated. Verification of fishing methods should be made by these such vessels. My guess is there is a 20,000 – 40,000 ton decline in the 2015 Albacore world production. This would account for all the poached Albacore.
Was it because of the Presidential IUU task force? The slave trade exposed in Indonesia? The satellite imagery tracking vessels? The Naval presence in the South China Sea? All is a part of eliminating IUU driftnet fishing and its working!
From the sustainable Albacore Troll fishery in the North Pacific and the Pacific Ocean herself,
We SALUTE you!!! We only hope the switch stays off!
Captain John Harder