Fall 2003

Plundering the Pacific

Part 1: The CATS
Who Run
the Fishhouse

Imagine the CEO of Weyerhaeuser appointed to run the national forests. As part of the deal, he gets to keep his old job. Federal law wouldn't allow it, of course. It's a simple conflict of interest. But when it comes to the folks who regulate ocean fishing, conflicts of interest are not only permissible, they're a regular part of the game. Full story.

Western Pacific council pushes plan to quash historic coral reserve. Council puts corals, spiny lobster and rare monk seal at risk so a few can profit. Full story.

They took millions of lobsters, and monk seal pups starved to death. Graphic (large file).

Science Friction. Industry resists Pew Commission’s call for change. Full story.

Marine mammals killed by Pacific fisheries. Graphic (large file).

How to speak “fisheries”. Full story.



Part 2: The Rockfish Files.

Documents show the Pacific Fishery Management Council ignored scientific advice as it let the bottom dwellers crash. Full story.

These stocks are down. Hundreds of tons of imperiled rockfish are killed and wasted as bycatch each year in West Coast fisheries. Graphic (large file).

Private ownership of a public resource? The IFQ debate. Full story.


Part 3: Essential Coral Gardens

North Pacific council rejects plan to protect coral and sponge, though the plan meant
little reduction in commercial fishing. Full story.

Protecting our Undersea Yellowstones. Scientists find marine reserves build bigger fish and produce more young. Full story.

From Baja to Bering. Exploring coral and sponge secrets along the West Coast and Alaska. Graphic (large file).



Net effects: A conservation map of the North Pacific. Graphic (very large file).



Fixing our Failed Fisheries.

What you can do for the Pacific Ocean.


More information:

North Pacific Ocean Conservation Directory.


Poachers R Us
A follow up article from Dec. 31, 2003, in the Honolulu Weekly








2003 Cascadia Times


Plundering the Pacific



Science Friction

Industry resists Pew Commission’s call for change

Last June, the Pew Oceans Commission released a major report calling for reform of the way fisheries are governed. The prestigious Oceans Commission, made up of environmental, industry, and government representatives called for a new National Oceans Policy and regional ocean ecosystem councils staffed with non-partisan scientists. It would not eliminate federal fishery councils, but would strip them of any responsibility for balancing conservation and economics. Some conservationists would go further than the Oceans Commission and toss the entire fisheries council system overboard, and move NOAA Fisheries out of the Department of Commerce.


The Cascadia Times Fall 2003 issue, "Plundering the Pacific," investigates the decline of the North Pacfic Ocean and its wildlife in the wake of decades of industrial scale fishing.

The 24-page print edition contains numerous graphics and full-color photographs that richly illustrate this report. Please support Cascadia Times with your subscription or by making a donation. Thank you!

Reprints are available for $5 each. For reprint information, please contact us at cascadia@spiritone.com.

The report, “America's Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change,” presented incontrovertible evidence that of 304 managed stocks that have been fully assessed, just under a third are either overfished, experiencing overfishing, or both.

The commission found that after fishers decimate a prized species, they move on to related, but perhaps less valuable, species. When these less valuable species then decline, fishermen move to yet another species and so on. This is a widespread problem occurring among rockfish on the Pacific coast, and contributing to severe declines in crustacean fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska.

The Oceans Commission was not the only source this year of troubling news about the oceans. Last May, the journal Nature revealed that just 10 percent of all large fish - including tuna, swordfish, marlin and the large groundfish such as cod, halibut, skates and flounder — remain alive in the sea. Most strikingly, the study showed that industrial fisheries take only ten to fifteen years to grind any new fish community they encounter to one tenth of what it was before.

The Ocean Commission's findings and recommendations have drawn loud criticism from the fishing industry, which claims it is already making changes. “Pew is attempting to manufacture a crisis to justify its call for a top-down federal bureaucracy and more opportunities for lawsuits,” said Rod Moore, executive director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association, a lobbying group based in Portland. “We have local people responding to problems right now; creating a new Washington, D.C.-based agency and relegating the public to an advisory role will undercut local and regional initiatives that are succeeding. Instead of more lawsuits, let's invest in more science so we can make the right decision.”

The National Fisheries Institute, the nation's largest non-profit seafood trade association, said the current system of fisheries councils is, while not perfect, “working remarkably well.” The group called the Ocean Commission's idea of a National Oceans Commission as “an unnecessary financial and bureaucratic burden to the management of our oceans.”

The Oceans Commission was the first comprehensive examination of US Ocean Policy in 30 years. It defined the problems facing the oceans, but also provided a road map for policymakers to restore America's oceans and fisheries. The report notes that rebuilding US fisheries has the potential to “restore and create tens of thousands of family wage jobs and add at least 1.3 billion dollars to the U.S. economy.” It cites seven main areas to rebuild America's fisheries:

1. Redefine the Principal Objective of American Marine Fishery Policy to Protect, Maintain and Restore Marine Ecosystems.

2. Separate Conservation and Allocation Decisions.

3. Implement Ecosystem-Based Planning and Marine Zoning.

4. Regulate the Use of Fishing Gear that is Destructive to Marine Habitats.

5. Require Bycatch Monitoring and Management Plans as a Condition of Fishing.

6. Require Comprehensive Access and Allocation Planning as a Condition of Fishing.

7. Establish a Permanent Fishery Conservation and Management Trust Fund.

For a copy of the report, go to www.pewoceans.org.