All posts by mhschoenfeld

Halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea

The Bering Sea trawlers have had the same bycatch caps for the last two decades, even as we see Halibut size and age decrease across Alaska’s catches.   There has been important decreases in the Gulf of Alaska though in past years.   A group of twelve legislators representing coastal communities recently wrote a letter to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to reduce the bycatch by 50% for the Aleutian trawlers.   This action was taken after a vote to reduce   Halibut bycatch rates at a   meeting earlier this year by NPFMC failed by one vote. Hopefully restrictions on bycatch rates will be increase as more people share there concerns with the council.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

As most of us already have heard,   The Obama administration and the department of the interior have proposed adding millions of acres of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to be declare “Wilderness” area.   If this declaration passes Congress it will expand the areas that are off limits for oil drilling, mining, and other environmentally devastating actions.   This is a good example of how the federal governments departments are still trying to put forth effort to preserve our environments for wildlife and marine life.       Obama said ” Designating ANWR as a Wilderness so that we can make sure that this amazing wonder is preserved for future generations”

Alaska’s representatives did not take this action kindly in fear of the economic impact this may have on the state’s primary revenue source; oil.   In saying that, we can also see where small vs. large government agencies can differ when creating environmental decisions separately.   Though this will save more of our beloved fish and marine habitat, will it help our state wide efforts to preserve habitat or can this actually take funds away from   Maximum Sustained Yield principles we practice in heavily trafficked and fished   areas of the state?

To read more about this follow the links below:


King Salmon in Alaska

The King salmon runs have been a hot topic in the news for years.   Each year we seem to be getting smaller runs and ADF&G closes more fisheries to protect these fish.   Recently ADF&G has put out a publication to explain the results of the research done through out the major systems in Alaska, “Chinook News”.   Each project summarizes the method of research and the analyzed data.

Fish wheel used on the Chitna River, part of the Copper.

ADF&G and native governments, such as the native village of Eyak, have utilized many different methods to collect this pertinent data while maintaining healthy handling techniques in the process.   Using all types of gear has given each project the ability to utilize the best and safest means to collect data.   Though as our technology of sonar gets better, so will the estimates and therefore the knowledge to make informed decisions (The Kenai and other major systems already successfully utilize high tech Sonar gear).

ADF&G Unuk River Chinook salmon spawning abundance, 1977—2013.

Overall these projects illustrate a decreasing population of Chinook since around 2007.   The collection and analysis of the data from each major system allows local management the devises to make decisions under the sustained yield principle.   It has given the managers around the Kenai River the data necessary to make the informed decision to close down the fishery for another year.   The Unuk marine terminal area has been closed for 40 years to protect the wild stock in river and surrounding areas. And systems where the stock seems to be healthy ADF&G has limited the harvest based on the projected number of returning Kings.

Read the Newsletter here:


The Last Atlantic Cod

      In the 1850s New England cod  fisherman pressured the government to do something about the decreasing cod in their areas.   So, in 1857 the Legislator put limits on the increasing Menhaden fisheries that are an important food source for Cod.     This attempt did not accomplish much by looking at the continually decreasing catch of Atlantic Cod.
        Then the age of technology comes into scene, trawlers with diesel engines.   Fishing faster and deeper, this benefited the fishermen and continued the depletion of cod exponentially. Now the cod populations have dwindled to less than 1 percent of what was around in the 1800s and the fishermen are out of work.
      Who is to blame for lack of management and over exploitation? Bolster puts the blame on our “system”, not the fishermen, scientists or politicians, but the neglect to take control of our seemingly need and nature to exploit any natural resource we can get our hands on.
        In all of America’s history we should be learning from our mistakes going from East to West.   It is black and white, this is how we messed up, let us not do it again.   Right? Well it does not seem that easy.   When there is a market for natural resources, we will, by God, supply that demand.   We will deplete stocks, ruin water systems and kill of whole species for our immediate well being. As it continues, we can only create a positive and loud voice in the public to make people in power aware that every action has a reaction, we must consider what all the reaction may be before acting so quickly.

Where Have All the Cod Gone?

Mekong Dams and the lack international management

Do we ever learn from history?

Mekong river and dam locations, National Geographic

Where the rest of the world seeks to take down damns and to help restore fish populations, Laos is building them. The Mekong River is a huge system, utilized by all of the Southeast Asian countries: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and China. The biodiversity of the Mekong is rich and vast including the Mekong giant catfish, the Irrawaddy Dolphin, and 70 or more other species . There have been issues of over fishing, over population, and now blocking of the Don Sahong channel, for a hydroelectric damn may have devastating impacts on the remaining populations. On top of that the Laotian Government is also allowing the construction of the Xayaburi Dam several hundred miles upstream that blocks the entire river. There are however plans to create passages for fish to move through.

The environmental manager for the Don Sahong Dam project, Peter Hawkins, says that if these passages do not prove to be sufficient they will continue to work on them to create the best bypass possible. Another environmental factor International River brings up is the nutrients lost in blocking the sediment flowing down river, this will most likely impact the rice farmers in a negative way.

Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand are not happy about this situation. In fact Thai villagers that live along the Mekong in Northeast Thailand have brought a lawsuit against the Thai government’s plan to buy up most the power that will be produced by the Xayaburi dam. There have been many protests and inquires for more environmental impact research to be done before construction of these dams. As of now the dams plan for construction are still going ahead even though there are court dates set for the future and outcomes to still be decided.

Khone Falls, on one of the channels of the Mekong in Si Phan Don, is a major tourist attraction – but not so good for fish. Michael Sullivan/NPR

The fish management of the Mekong between these international borders is lacking big time and utilizing the legal system of Thailand may be to best opportunity to help ensure the lives of many species for the future.

Read these Sources:

Fan o Fish, Cutty

Hello, my name is Cutty

That’s me on the up top and my Alaska home range below.


Common name: Coastal Cutthroat Trout

Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus clarkia

Other Nicknames: Blue Back, Harvest Trout, Sea Trout

Interested in: Any lady cutthroat trout that would like to meet upstream in some of the gravel beds of the smaller clearer streams around, I will be there around April till the start of June. I am also willing to meet up with a good looking Rainbow trout if you’re around.

Not interested in (Predators): Fish, seals, otters, birds, humans.

**Note to Humans: Please let me go if you catch me, keep some of those Dollies or Pink salmon if you need to eat, Thanks!***


Family: (Salmonidae) I have many closely related cousins as well, who are also known as cutthroat trout. They live in the Rockies and the Great Basin. Some of their names are the Greenback, Yellowstone, Paiute, and Whitehorse among others.


Spending the winter in deep lakes full of food.

Snacking on Salmon fry and eggs, insects, and pretty much what ever meat I can get my mouth on.

Fighting hard against those fishermen that come into the streams after me.

Breeding once I turned 3, and every year or so afterwards.

After I turn 3 or 4 I like going out to the ocean every once in a while, but not too far or I may get eaten.

I now realize how hard it is to go to the sea and back and make it to spawning grounds on time. I only saw about 40% of the guys at the spawning grounds from last year. I think the next time I go (third time) will probably be my last time going up there. Hopefully none of those guys will fool me again with fake yummy looking fish just to bring out me of the water, take a picture of me and put me back in.


Age: 5 years old. Not even at midlife yet hopefully, we can sometimes live longer than         12 years.

Marital Status: Single and ready to mingle

Hometown: Peterson Creek, in some of that real slow murky water up there is where I hung out as a Juvenile.

Sexual Orientation: Straight. We both look very similar though. But, you can tell when she is full of eggs.

Body Type: Slender, with just the right amount of meat.

Defining Marks/coloration: Red slashes under the jaw. Some of my cousins have a yellow slash. Do not confuse me with a Rainbow even though sometimes we might comingle.

Ethnicity: Coastal

Religion: Carnivorous

Zodiac Sign: Pisces

Children: Hopefully many, I have spawned twice so far!

Education: 11 months in the Pacific.

Occupation: Philosopher. Conservationist.

Income: Not as much as those guys wearing all that Orvis gear.

Smoke/Drink: Salmon/ Tricaine Methanesulfonate, preferably nice cold clean water



Herring Populations Southeast Alaska

Since 1976 there has been major Sac Roe Herring harvests in southeast Alaska along with Bait and spawn on kelp fisheries.   Through ocaption followsut the last few years we have seen these populations decreasing and many of the fisheries being closed down.   The major openings for the Sac Roe fisheries in southeast are four gill net locations in the Revilla Channel, West Behm Canal, Seymour Canal, and Hobart/Houghton.   There are also two purse seine fisheries, one in Lynn Canal and one in Sitka Sound.

ADF&G and BOF have set regulations on opening these fisheries by estimating the biomass of returning mature adults. In recent years many of these figures have been lower then the specified amount required to open for harvest.   Even as some fisheries have opened, they have also been close down very quickly if the first day harvest quota was more than expected or sometimes even just after a few minutes.   So far this year ADF&G has closed Semour, West Behm, Kah Shakes, and Hobart sac roe gillnet fisheries due to small or no spawning biomass. The Hoonah Sound Spawn on kelp fishery has also closed for the second year in a row.

Some speculation of why tHerring roe-on-kelp is called Kazunoko Kombu in sushi restaurants. (Flickr photo by Vincent Ma)he number of Herring in these areas are retreating have been going on.   One biologist, Eric Coonradt speculated that a couple years ago the herring got hit by disease, and it seemed to hit many different age groups through out the schools.   This density dependent mortality could account for the smaller number of returns.He also mentioned that the herring may also have shifted spawning grounds. The ADF&G profile website also explains that habitat lose is a huge threat for spawning Herring. Stating that the habitat has been destroyed by dredging, construction, oil spills, and decreasing water quality.

Will closing down some of these fisheries help bring back herring populations to Southeast Alaska? Will more environmental measures have to be done to keep there spawning grounds unaltered?   Or have they just simply moved on some where else?

Hopefully we will find out more about these massive groups of fish in the coming years…

caption follows

This is an intense fishery, check out the video below:





Hoonah Sound herring-spawn fishery to close for a second year