Working for Alaska's Salmon Future Today

AJOC EDITORIAL: Legal, historic harvest is not bycatch

November 15th, 2013 | Posted by Alaska Salmon Alliance in Articles
By Andrew Jensen, Managing editor

“Words have meaning, and names have power.”

The word of the day is bycatch, and those who would use it against Cook Inlet setnetters well understand the power of words.

The quote is attributable to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the 17th century Spanish author who wrote the classic novel “Don Quixote” about the man from La Mancha who travels the land engaging in misguided quests that always end badly yet never shake a groundless faith he has acted heroically.

Much like the reality Don Quixote stubbornly ignored while repeatedly falling victim to it, words retain their definition regardless of any attempts to pretend they mean the opposite. Few words are more poisonous in the world of fisheries management than “bycatch,” and there is now an effort underway to tag setnetters with a term that is properly associated with the taking of salmon, halibut and crab by trawlers operating off the coasts of Alaska.

It is simply wrong to call the legal, historic harvest of king salmon by Cook Inlet setnet fishermen by the same name as the prohibited species catch otherwise known as PSC taken by trawlers.

Bycatch like the trawl PSC is not to be caught or sold. This is obviously not the case for setnetters, who have caught and sold kings for a century from the beaches of Cook Inlet.

Attempting to conflate trawl bycatch with legitimate setnet harvest is erroneous, because by regulation a prohibited species catch limit conveys no right of use and by law bycatch is required to be minimized to the extent practicable.

Neither of those conditions can apply to the setnet harvest of kings or sockeyes, which are allocated in regulation and are limited mainly by abundance.

Due to copyright law, the Alaska Salmon Alliance cannot repost full articles. You can read the rest of this editorial here.

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