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Date Posted: 03:34:23 03/13/13 Wed
Author: Don Johnson
Subject: Where Have All The King Salmon and Beluga Whales Gone?
Where Have All The King Salmon and Beluga Whales Gone?
ALASKA'S ONCE GREAT SALMON RUNS
Many people are asking where our once great populations of king salmon have gone. Few people have any idea what may have happened to these once great salmon runs but if you ask the Alaska Department of Fish & Game they will announce a new catch-all term called (Lack Of King Salmon Abundance). This term is offered in an attempt to convince the public that there isn't a real known cause for the missing salmon. The ADF&G would prefer that you believe abundance issues are like "the rain falling out of the sky", uncontrollable and therefore you take what you get. I cannot agree with this alleged Lack Of Abundance Theory. There are known causes for Lack Of Abundance Issues but along with identifying a problem like this you need to also locate the possible causes of the problem. Our ADF&G has identified a (Lack Of King Abundance Problem) but are unable to locate the possible causes of that problem. It is my purpose to list possible reasons Alaska is currently seeing fewer and smaller king salmon, silver salmon and halibut today than observed historically.
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN KING & SOCKEYE SALMON
The king salmon abundance issue begins with a simple and very practical question. Why the dramatic difference between king and sockeye salmon abundance in Cook Inlet? Cook Inlet annually produces a high abundance of sockeye salmon along with a low abundance of king salmon. Since these salmon migrate side-by-side there is a reasonable assumption that our king salmon problems may not be happening while kings and sockeyes migrate together. This is assumable because in general what happens to one stock would logically happen to the other. Sockeyes are more prolific than kings therefore you would expect kings to recover slower from a marine disaster or commercial over-harvest but in general both stocks should respond in the same direction regarding food chain issues. Commercial and public fisheries have been both impacting our king salmon stocks for many years. Commercial activities have had the dominate impact on these fisheries but that impact has been happening for many years, while we have not observed today's kind of dramatic king salmon decreases. This abundance of sockeyes and lack of kings says that different factors must be impacting these salmon at sea. King and sockeye salmon feed on different foods while as sea so this king salmon problem appears to be directing our attentions towards a problem within the marine food chain.
KING AND SOCKEYE SALMON OCEAN FEEDING
To explore this possible marine food chain problem, the differences between king and sockeye salmon need to be investigated. King and sockeye salmon have many things in common along with some significant differences when it comes to how they live and feed. To find the differences you need to investigate what these salmon feed on. King and sockeye salmon both begin feeding on much the same things. Both salmon begin their lives by feeding on zooplankton like euphausiids (crab larvae). Juvenal kings feed on euphausiids until they reach about (16 inches) in length but these older euphausiids need to be greater than 17 mm in size. Sockeyes feed on younger euphausiids which are less than 5 mm in sizes. After juvenal kings reach (16 inches) they begin exclusively feeding on things which eat plankton like euphausiids, herring and capelin. Adult kings salmon diets switch to things like herring, capelin (small fish), sand lances, pollock and lanterfish. Sockeye however continue feeding mainly on very small (3-5 mm) plankton and zooplankton like euphausiids, while juvenal kings are feeding mainly on (>17 mm, greater than) euphausiids. After reaching (16 inches) kings make a feeding shift to herring and capelin. It is this king salmon dietary leap which allows kings to then grow to their much greater size. These king salmon feeding characteristics then become the focus of this investigation.
With sockeye salmon exclusively feeding on (3-5 mm) euphausiids and juvenal king salmon exclusively feeding on (>17 mm) euphausiids, one may assume a lack of feeding conflict. Unfortunately a conflict can be created when fisheries managements manipulate stock numbers. As the fisheries managers begins to manage for (only maximum sockeye production), this action can set into motion an unusual but intense feeding factor within our ocean. This sockeye feeding factor then specifically targets (3-5 mm T. spinifera, euphausiids 'crab larva'). These are in fact the same crab larva which juvenal king salmon will seek out later but after they have reach a length greater than 17 mm . Juvenal kings less than 16 inches in length need euphausiids greater than 17 mm in length OR THEY WILL STARVE TO DEATH. This is the primary marine feed these juvenal kings survive on during this early time in their life. The unfortunate part is that when sockeye salmon populations are expanded enough by fisheries managers, they begin to operate as a supreme feeding machine along with billions of pollock living in the same waters. Together these vastly superior numbers of (small crab larvae feeders) then sweep the ocean for all euphausiid larva near the (3-5 mm) length, thus leaving little (if any) larva to grow larger for juvenal king salmon to feed on while building reserves to allow them to make their jump to feeding on herring or capelin. Because this strategic (>17 mm) euphausiid elements is therefore missing, many of these juvenal king salmon then (starve to death) and therefore never become adults. 95% of a sockeye salmons diet focuses on these young 3-5 mm T. spinifera, euphausiids. 95% of a juvenal king salmon's diet focuses on the older (>17 mm) euphausiids after they have managed to escape massive sockeye and pollock feedings. King salmons diets eventually switch over to small fish but the question is how do these juvenal kings get to that switch-over point if they cannot forage enough crab larva larger than 17 mm, so they may become adults? Our latest marine science's are now showing a dramatic reduction in the North Pacific marine production crab larva. This science is telling us that we are now seeing that our (>17 mm) production of euphausiids is currently about 1% of what it used to be historically. We still have good production levels of smaller (3-5 mm) euphausiids, which are feeding our sockeye and pollock resource but 99% of the main diet of juvenal king salmon is now completely missing. Everyone should display shock when they hear that an element like this has gone missing within our marine environment. Our ADF&G is not showing shock, they are claiming that our missing kings are part of our natuarl marine cycles, "like rain falling from the sky".
These fisheries mangers continue to manage our fisheries as if we still have sufficient euphausiid resources to feed our current juvenal king salmon. Because these mangers do not understand the needs of our juvenal kings, they then claim that the resulting lack of returning adult kings salmon is a "natural" Lack Of King Salmon Abundance. There is nothing "natural" about this Lack Of King Salmon. If you follow the bread crumbs you find them leading back to a lack of (greater than 17 mm crab larva), and that lack is the direct results of fisheries mis-management. If we just assume that these juvenal kings somehow find enough (>17 mm crab larva) to survive on into adulthood, then you must consider their chances of finding enough herring or capelin to survive on as adults. Unfortunately these smaller fish also feed exclusively on the same (>17 mm T. spinifera, euphausiids) and because we now only have about 1% of what we used to have in euphausiids, these small fish are also now faced with the same dramatic lack of feed like juvenal king salmon. This dramatic lack of adequately sized marine food then demands closer examination. That examination needs to focus on the ocean production of plankton, zooplankton, euphausiids, herring, capelin and juvenal kings.
NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS F/NWC-91, Salmon Stomach Contents, From the Alaska Troll Logbook Program 1977-84, By Bruce L. Wing , October 1985. Type, Quantity, And Size Of Food Of Pacific Salmon (Oncorhynchus) In The Strait Of Juan De Fuca, British Columbia, Terry D. Beachami.
PLANKTON, PHYTOPLANKTON AND ZOOPLANKTON LIKE CRAB LARVAE
Our North Pacific marine food chain begins with (plankton). These plankton drift with ocean currents because most of them cannot swim. The name plankton comes from the Latin term for (wanderer). Phytoplankton are single celled organisms which absorb energy from the sun and diatoms from the water as they retain carbon to fuel their survival. That carbon then plays a fundamental part within the (carbon cycle) as it and the (oxygen cycle) work together to produce about half of the oxygen we breath everyday. This oxygen results from photosynthesis actions between ocean nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. Plankton live within these cycles expelling oxygen, absorbing carbon, dying and then sinking to the bottom of our oceans. This results in a planet-wide cycle which removes millions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere and replaces it with oxygen. This is an (Anti Global Warming) cycle. That is not all plankton do before they die; they also make up the foundation of our ocean marine food chain. Phytoplankton are then eaten by the more complex zooplankton animals which are marine life like euphausiids (crab larvae). At night, zooplankton like crab larvae sneak up to the surface and feed on phytoplankton in relative safely. Once these larvae's become adults they will go on to basically feed just about everything in our ocean with their resulting crab larvae. These zooplankton crab larvae then become the focus of this investigation as they live and feed within the phytoplankton.
Female crabs usually release their larvae during a spring high tide. They do this in an attempt to limit predation by everything but mainly salmon. As the tide peaks out the larvae swim to the surface and are carried away from the hatch site by the tide to the main ocean. As the tide reaches its low and starts to flood again, the larvae then swim towards the bottom, where the water moves slower. As the tide then again ebbs, the larvae swim to the surface and resume their journey to the ocean. This predator dodging procedure may take days or weeks but will eventually allow most of the larvae to reach the main ocean. These crab larvae are called meroplankton because they spend part of their life living and growing within the plankton after they exhaust the yolk sack they are carrying from the egg they hatched from. These crab larvae spend varying amounts of time within the plankton. That time may be minutes or over a year before graduating to their adult benthic (seabed) existence. These young crab rapidly adapt to a deep-water pressurized existence and cannot survive the upper parts of the water column. Life at this pressurized existence carries one atmosphere for every (10 metres) of water. Sunlight rarely penetrates these depths therefore the main energy source for these deep benthic ecosystems is most often dead and decaying matter like rotting salmon carcasses, which sink from the higher water column.
Immature crab larvae pass through a number of stages as they move from hatching to adult. Each crab will go through many molts as their very hard exoskeleton is shed away over and over to allow the crab to grow larger. If some how these crab larvae metamorphose (change to different physical form) too far from a suitable settlement site, they will perish. Once they locate a suitable site, these crab larvae will feed on plankton for several months, while molting many times. These larvae will then change their body forms over and over until they finally sink to the bottom and become the (non-swimmers) that live on the seafloor and look like crabs, but they are still smaller than a penny in size. Our fisheries managers need to determine where these crab settlements are, this will help us understand what ocean habitats encourage crab population growth and eventually locate which areas of Alaska's ocean bottom should be considered (essential habitat for crabs). In general it has been found that crabs prefer to settle on structurally complex substrate, such as algae or plant-like growths. Increased structures like this will increase the total number of suitable crab settlements
MARINE ENERGY / CRAB PRODUCTION
Crabs must molt their shells in order to grow but females crabs must also molt their shells in order to mate. These shell moltings require a huge amount of energy and that energy is expected to come from ocean nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient levels. While maturing, these crab will prey on a variety of things which include: sea urchins, snails brittle stars, worms, clams, mussels, other crabs, algae, sand dollars, barnacles, other crustaceans, fish, sponges, and sea stars. Adult crab and their larvae are directly affected by a decrease in ocean nitrogen, phosphorus and nutrient levels in general, but also indirectly when their prey also suffer from the same lack of nutrients. If these crab do not have sufficient nutrient rich waters they will not molt properly due to low nutrient energy levels. This will affect their maturing, growing and mating processes and result in the eventual death of the crab.
SALMON ESCAPEMENT, SPAWNING, DEATH, ROTTING, NUTRIENTS, PLANKTONS AND EUPHAUSIIDS PRODUCTION
One major way to increase the survival of all forms of plankton and therefore also crabs, is by allowing salmon to escape, spawn and die in their native fresh water rivers and streams. This is basic gardening 101 and can be directly applied to plankton and ocean crab production. The death and rotting of a salmon is as much a part of this cycle of life as any other part. Spawned-out salmon carcasses are a vital link between freshwater and saltwater marine ecosystems. Without these decomposing salmon carcasses it is impossible for nursery lakes to maintain adequate nutrient levels thus also causing the ocean they flow into to become nutrient impoverished. A nutrient impoverished ocean works to prevent increased phytoplankton, which works to prevent increased zooplankton like crabs. The reason for this connection is because young crabs feed on the phytoplankton, which is currently at a 50 year low in the North Pacific. Reduced salmon escapement levels have resulted in reduced biogenic fertilization, which has resulted in reduced juvenile and adult crabs. Phytoplankton enhancement is at least as important as sockeye enhancement but we see little to no ocean phytoplankton enhancement while millions of dollars are spent on sockeye enhancements. What is the purpose of spending millions of dollars on sockeye fisheries enhancement and nothing on what those millions of salmon are going to feed on? It is not coincidental that the North Pacific is currently at a 50 year low in king salmon, crab and herring production. It is also not a coincidence that Alaska has been escaping minimal numbers of salmon for about 50 years. The commercial removal of these salmon from our waters has resulted in dramatically lowering our ocean nitrogen, phosphorus and nutrient water ratio levels. The removal of these rotting salmon from our ocean waters has effectively removed the primary building blocks necessary for ocean planktons to build on within our marine food chain. This removal has resulted in our ocean waters becoming nutrient depleted and unable to produce maximum levels of planktons along with the resulting euphausiids, which would have fed all our herring, sea lions, salmon and whales.
NORTH PACIFIC COMMERCIAL CRAB OVER-HARVEST
It is shocking to discover that our North Pacific Ocean has 99% less euphausiids today (which are greater than 17 mm. in length) than we have had 50 years ago. This unfortunate fact quickly generates a desire to discover why these (>17 mm) euphausiids have disappeared from the North Pacific marine environment. A quick review of Alaska commercial crab fisheries harvest can shed much light on these missing euphausiids.
Tanner crab peak commercial harvest was in 1978 and at 66.6 million pounds. In 1979 tanner crab populations (crashed) because of commercial over-harvest. By 1984 the commercial tanner harvest (crashed) again because of over-harvest and went down to just 1.2 million pounds annually. Both Bering Sea (tanner and snow crab stocks) were officially declared (crashed) and commercially over-harvested in 1999. This fishery went from 66 million pounds in 1978 to 22 million pounds in 2004 because of commercial over-harvest. (22 million is 33% of 66 million). The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, National Marine Fisheries Service, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game came together and drafted a crab rebuilding plan in 2000, to try to clean up the over-harvest mess. Unfortunately these crab populations still refuse to rebound because they lack the necessary ocean nutrient energy levels to fuel a rebound.
In 1980 Bering Sea, (red king crab) commercial harvests peaked at 130 million pounds. That commercial over-harvest then caused a red king crab (crash) from then on until today where we now expect about a 15 million pound harvest. (15 million is 11% of 130 million)
The above commercial crab fisheries have crashed over and over until finally settling at annual harvest levels which are around 11% - 33% of what they used to be historically. Within all this commercial crab over-harvest, millions of undersized female crabs have been brought up as by-catch and thrown back into the ocean. Many of these female crabs die anyway and result in a great reduction in the total crab biomass. These crab have adapted to a deep-water pressured existence, when trapped by commercial fisheries and instantly jerked to the surface, many are not able to survive the nitrogen bubbles which buildup in their bodies. Many of these crab therefore die unseen on the way back down to the bottom. With all this frenzied commercial activity taking place year after year, is it any wonder that in general Alaska crab populations are officially on the decline? With this commercial over-harvest fact finally realized, is it any wonder that we currently lack the euphausiids necessary to feed our juvenal king salmon?
So as we watch "The Deadliest Catch" on television, we now see the actual truth of just how deadly these commercial crab fisheries are. These commercial fisheries are not currently in the best interests of our marine eco-systems. They are also not in the best interest of the Alaskan public who expect the State of Alaska and the U.S. Federal Government to manage these marine resources in way which allows them to co-exist and not destroy each other. These fisheries are being mis-managed by the ADF&G and the U.S. Federal Government to promote only sockeye salmon and pollock production. This kind of unbalanced fisheries management has led to the soaring and crashing of many of our fisheries resources. Our marine ecosystems are suffering from a loss of biodiversity due to the destruction of our marine food chains and habitats.
The North Pacific Climate Shift And Commercial Over- Harvest The history of Alaska North Pacific herring, capelin, crab and sand lance production has varied from feast to famine over time. Most of these changes or abnormal events are the result of more than one cause. Some of these causes are related to large-scale climatic shifts, human influences and even the increase of natural predators in the ocean. There are a great many scientists who believe that the reason for these climatic shift may lie in large-scale shifts in climatic and oceanic conditions in the Bering Sea and eastern North Pacific Ocean. These (climate regime shifts) appear to have also happened in 1925, 1947, 1977, 1989 and 1998. A 1996 report by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), shows that from 1977 on, climate shift resulted in concert (with human influences) to bring about the profound changes in and around the Bering Sea and North Pacific. This report refers to a (cascade hypothesis) which claims that climate change caused a small scale reduction in herring, capelin and crabs but that reduction was turned into a large scale reductions from over-fishing by commercial fisheries.
This commercial fishery over-harvest then resulted in increased levels of food available to pollock and invertebrates up to around 1980. The North Pacific marine ecosystem was then changed from being dominated by herring and capelin, which was previously everywhere during the 1970s, to being basically wiped out from the western Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. After that destruction the ecosystem was only dominated by pollock. This was a FORCED commercial fishing over-harvest ecosystem change, within a natural climate regime shift. Together these two forces combined to produce more pollock and fewer king salmon; thus commercial over-harvest exacerbated a king salmon climate reduction change into a complete (commercial fisheries caused king salmon disaster). This (commercial fisheries dominate species conversion scenario) has been played out over and over off the coast of Alaska and results in more pollock and fewer herring, capelin and crabs. http://www.seaweb.org/resources/briefings/bering.php
GULF OF ALASKA CLIMATE SHIFT AND COMMERCIAL OVER-HARVEST
We are currently seeing studies on our Alaska halibut and salmon resources which are concluding that these fish weigh half of what the same age class weighed in 1988. All of these fish depend heavily on herring as a main element within their diet. Most commercial and sport fishermen in Alaska understand that our historic stock levels of herring have greatly declined over time. This has happened because of the combined factors of commercial over-harvest, climate change and increased predation. How did all these negative factors combine together at the same time and seriously impact the abundance of our salmon and halibut? The story is very plain as it is published just about everywhere you look.
Our Alaska Department of Fish & Game opened herring roe fisheries in 1976. Back then we had seven very major herring spawning areas in Southeast Alaska, and many other smaller ones. Currently we only have two major herring spawns areas left and the smaller ones are completely gone. Each year our ADF&G conducts massive herring harvests which average around 20 - 30 million pounds from the Sitka Sound. We are currently looking at total disaster within our salmon and halibut resources, not to mention all the other species which depend on this herring resource, but we are still commercially over-harvesting herring. Many Alaskan communities and their economies depend on the salmon and halibut which feed on this herring but this natural resource has been greatly reduce with commercial over-harvest. With herring, salmon and halibut disasters now hanging over our fisheries, our ADF&G still continues to open and over-harvest our herring resource every year? This is not conservative fisheries management.
Alaska did have thousands of square miles of Southeast waters filled with major herring spawning areas. Now with only Sitka Sound remaining as a major herring spawning area, we in Alaska come face to face with a tremendous lack of both salmon and halibut. Most areas which had swelling populations of herring now host much smaller, severely depleted or even nonexistent populations. Alaska used to have many herring reduction plants going 24 hours per day, year around as our commercial fisheries could not catch all of the herring. Alaska had thousands of people employed as they worked continuous shifts trying to process and ship out our fisheries bounty. Our bays were so over-flowing with herring that docks and harbors were inundated with them as anyone could catch them just about anywhere. The beginning of the end of our herring happened in 1976 as Alaska's commercial sac roe herring fishery began hammering away at our seeming endless supply of herring. Buyers from Japan were willing to purchase herring sac roe for over $2,200 per ton as we began to watch our herring masses decrease. Commercial fishermen watched on as our herring biomass began to wither while our ADF&G biologists blank faced denied that our herring were decreasing. The ADF&G continued claiming that the reason fishermen could not find the herring was because they had moved. Herring do not usually move, they like to spawn in the same location year after year. If in fact they had moved, why have we failed to locate the places they moved to?
COOK INLET BELUGA WHALES AND LEFT-OVERS
What do you think would happen to you if every time you went to the grocery store to get food, you couldn't find much of anything because a giant food monster came through there the day before and wiped the place out? What if each time you went to get food, all you found were scraps which this giant food monster somehow over looked as it went about industrially emptying the isle? How long would it take you to stop shopping at that store? How long would it take for you to have a food emergency? How many of your family might die from starvation because at some point during the year you did not have enough food to survive? What would you do if someone took all of your food? This kind of illustration may seem like something out of a fictional novel but it is really happening to much of our ocean marine life as they attempt to survive along side industrialized food monsters, which are in fact industrialized commercial fishing. Giant gillnets and trawler sacks are currently being set, drifted and dragged through the waters of our oceans and either killing and selling or killing and dumping huge quantities of ocean marine life. This removed marine life is being sold all over the world at unprecedented levels. Millions of tons of salmon are being removed from our waters and marketed all over our planet. Beluga Whales mainly consume salmon to survive and that poses a special problem with regard to how they acquire their correct body weight. They must catch and consume large quantities of salmon to generate this body weight. The problem is that they must catch and consume most of this body fat during July when most of our salmon move up Cook Inlet. Cook Inlets commercial fishery spreads about 7,000,000 liner feet of gillnets out in front of the salmon attempting to move up Cook Inlet in July. These commercial fishery admits to catching and killin about 85% - 90% of these salmon each year.
Your average beluga needs about 50 pounds of salmon per day to even hope to generate enough body weight fat to allow it to survive until the next year. These beluga's consume salmon basically in July because not much is moving up Cook Inlet the rest of the year. A beluga needs about 44 pounds of prey sockeye salmon per day. This means that the average Beluga Whale needs at least 4 -5 sockeye salmon per day or about 50 pounds.
Beluga Whales weigh about 2,000 - 3,000 pounds and they need about 50 pounds of salmon per day to survive the entire year. At 50 pounds of salmon per day, times 31 days in July, equals 1,550 pounds of salmon or 155 salmon annually necessary for minimum fat reserves and a beluga surviving the year. (50 pounds per day X 31 days in July = 1,550 pounds of salmon) (1,550 pounds of sockeye salmon / 10 lb. sockeye salmon = 155 sockeye salmon needed annually per beluga)With an average beluga population at say 312 beluga's like today, you would need a minimum of 48,360 salmon annually to allow them to survive until next year. (155 salmon per beluga X 312 Beluga's = 48,360 needed salmon) Each beluga needs a minimum of about 155 salmon or 1,550 pounds of salmon each year (just to survive). Each beluga basically needs to consume its own body weight in salmon in July or it will not make it through the winter. So the big question becomes; how many salmon does Cook Inlet get each year? Cook Inlet usually gets a run of about 4 - 6 million sockeye salmon each year and its commercial fishing industry catches, kills and sells about 85% of that run each year. A commercial catch of 5 million sockeyes, out of 6 million available sockeyes, leaves an 85% commercial catch rate. http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/fishing/PDFs/commercial/2011_uci_socke...
What Else Could We Be Doing With Those 6,000,000 Sockeye Salmon?
6,000,000 sockeye salmon would feed about 38,709 Beluga Whales. (6,000,000 sockeye's / 155 sockeye salmon annual requirement per beluga = 38,709 Beluga Whales fed)
5,000,000 sockeye's would feed 32,258 Beluga Whales, 4,000,000 sockeye's would feed 25,806 Beluga Whales, 3,000,000 sockeye's would feed 19,354 Beluga Whales, ect..
48,360 sockeye's would feed 312 Beluga Whales, 31,250 sockeye's would feed 201 Beluga Whales. (155 sockeyes per year X 312 whales = 48,360 sockeyes)
These calculations project that we are probably feeding our current 312 Cook Inlet Beluga's about 48,360 sockeye salmon annually or 0.8% of the total run.
(48,360 sockeyes is 0.8% of 6,000,000 sockeye salmon)
So why are we catching, killing, selling and shipping out most of our sockeye salmon when we could be using at least part of them to help feed a dwindling Beluga population? The Alaska Board of Fish and the State of Alaska need to get serious about discovering what is causing our Beluga Whale population to dwindle. We have no idea how many of our beluga's are staving to death during the winter as their fat reserves reduce down to nothing. There is a lot of evidence out there that we are starving our whales to death and they don't always roll up on a beach after they die. There are increasing reports of people visually verifying shoulder blades protruding from many of our whales. Whales are being found dead on beaches, investigations have proved these whales to have starved to death. We see report after report of pods of whales accidentally beaching themselves while chasing prey. Could it be that these whales are so starved that they are being forced to chase prey into unsafe areas, at unsafe times, just to survive? When you hear of a whale beaching, do you hear anyone suggesting starving whales chasing prey into unsafe waters? Have you even heard even a guess as to what may have caused a whale to beaching? This is something which should not be happening but it is. We should specially allocate at least a part of this 85% commercial harvest of sockeyes to help feed and increase our Cook Inlets Beluga Whale population. What would be wrong with making a specific beluga allocation of sockeye salmon? Right now our Beluga Whales take what ever is left-over after the isles are industrially emptied by the commercial fishing fleet. Is that all our beluga's are worth, 0.8% of a total sockeye run or just the left-overs? This is the same kind of statewide commercial over-fishing which has impacted our plankton, zooplankton, euphausiids, herring, salmon and sea lions. How can anyone seriously wonder why we have a decreasing population of Cook Inlet Beluga Whales when we remove the majority of what they need to feed on from Cook Inlet and sell it to the highest bidder? If you want to increase Cook Inlet beluga's forget all the studies out there pointing to everything except "actually feeding them".
The Alaska Board of Fisheries needs to take up this issue and define how many beluga's they would like to see in Cook Inlet. Once they have an actual target number of whales they should then
make a specific allocation of sockeye salmon to feed them.
Since our commercial salmon and pollock fisheries are constantly working to not return marine nutrients back to the ocean, the mass commercial removal of these nutrients becomes the first break in the marine food web. As this missing nutrient factor spreads out within the marine environment, it begins to first effect planktons, phytoplanktons, zooplanktons, crab, herring, capelin, salmon, halibut, sea lions, sea otters, whales, sea urchins and finally kelp beds which are home to much of this marine life. As these elements of a healthy marine ecosystem disappear, the system then begins to desegregate. Buried within this ring of marine destruction is the first break in the food web as commercial fisheries remove the necessary salmon carcass nutrients from the marine system thereby forcing the ecosystem to eventually fail. Commercial fisheries are witling away at these essential core populations while at the same time by-catching and thereby destroying many other essential parts of the marine food chain.
This entire process of excessive harvest and destruction then finally results in things like a pod of Cook Inlet Beluga Whales wandering Cook Inlet in search of salmon which have been caught and sold by commercial fisheries. This is how you end up seeing a pod of stranded Cook Inlet Beluga Whales flopping on some mud flat. Those whales did not get there because their GPS or navigational skills were defective. They got there because they were probably starving and were forced to go places and do things which they would never normally do. If you were a beluga, would you risk your life by chasing a salmon into a foot of water? If you were starving you probably would take the chance and that is what is no doubt happening to many of our Cook Inlet Beluga Whales. Many of these whales are (starving to death or beaching themselves) because our commercial fisheries are catching and selling their food. This is basic math, if you want more Beluga Whales in Cook Inlet, you actually have to feed them something. Right now the bulk of their food is being sold to the highest bidder by our commercial fisheries and if you think that is going to change soon, think again.
By NOT allowing the bulk of the salmon which we send to sea, to return, die and rot within out rivers and streams, we unbalance the natural food web equation. When the bulk of these returning salmon are commercially caught, processed and sold, we have created an artificial break in the ocean food web. This food web break results in a giant annual nutrient removal from our ocean with minimal nutrient deposits within our freshwater rivers and streams. That kind of a (nutrient deficit) can be absorbed by the ocean for only a limited amount of time before bad things begin to happen. It is like punching a very small hole in a very large buck, eventually the bucket will be empty. The loss of our king salmon is only the beginning of the list of bad things which will result from this food web break.
The above information outlines a substantial failure by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game as it has mis-diagnosing a returning king salmon problem as being a natural (Lack Of King Salmon Abundance). This is not an (natural abundance problem), it is clear that this king salmon loss has its roots deep within our ocean nutrient levels and excess commercial fishing. Our ocean nitrogen levels are currently the lowest they have been in 50 years. These depleted nutrient levels have been misinterpret by the ADF&G as being a natural occurrences when they have in fact been commercially manipulated to their current depleted levels. These fisheries management manipulations have resulted in reduced escaping, dying and rotting salmon. That manipulation has resulted in reduced ocean nitrogen, phosphorus and nutrient levels along with reduced phytoplankton, zooplankton, adult euphausiids, reduced juvenal king salmon and therefore reduced returning adult king salmon. This is not a natural (Lack Of Abundance King Salmon Problem) This is a human caused "unnatural" (Lack Of Ocean Nutrients and Commercial Over-Harvest Problem). These problems may be remedied by first identifying sensitive stock environmental areas and closing them to commercial fishing until they have recovered. This problem may also be addressed by immediately and dramatically increasing the biomass of salmon which we allow to escape and rot in our freshwater rivers and streams. We need to close down the commercial destruction of our crab, herring and salmon. This would boost our ocean nutrient levels and place the State of Alaska squarely on the road to steady king salmon and euphausiid recovery, instead of the steady decline we are currently seeing today.
NEEDED FISHERIES MANAGEMENT CHANGES
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, ADF&G and Alaska Board of Fisheries are currently placing our critical marine resources in direct jeopardy with on going and excessive commercial fisheries over-harvest. Saltwater marine ecosystems around Alaska have been pushed to the brink of complete failure. These depleted ecosystems are currently suffering from a loss of biodiversity due to the destruction of our marine food chains and habitats. We need our fisheries managers to immediately locate, set aside and protect (species specific areas and safe pockets) from which herring, crab and king salmon can re-seed over-exploited waters. Our fisheries managers need to immediately reevaluate all of our (commercial herring sac roe, crab and king salmon fisheries). Many of our commercial herring, crab and king salmon fisheries are over fished and depleted. These depleted commercial fisheries should be restricted or closed to commercial fisheries access until they have sufficiently recovered. We have substantial components of our Alaskan economy at stake in these fisheries issues. Commercial and sport fisheries along with a large tourism industry depend on the predator's which need to feed on our herring and crab resources. Both of these resources have been allowed to dwindle away year after year. Our fisheries users groups are wondering why they are seeing fewer and smaller predatory fish which they need to catch in order to survive. We may not be able to prevent climate change from effecting our salmon or halibut resources but we can stop commercial over-fishing from making the situation even worse. I therefore request that our fisheries managers immediately take up the statewide issue of reevaluate and protecting our depleted but remaining herring, crab and king salmon stocks.
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