State scientists urge federal Steller plan go back for improvement
Go back to square one and come up with a better plan, is the recommendation Alaska scientists are making to federal fish managers. At issue is the hotly disputed BiOp or biological opinion, on Steller sea lions, which states that commercial fisheries jeopardize recovery of the endangered animals.
The document proposes "reasonable and prudent alternatives" that drastically curtail pollock, Atka mackerel and Pacific cod harvesting in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The protective measures were scheduled to take effect this month, but last-minute congressional action delayed them by six months.
"I’ve not read a document generated by an agency like the National Marine Fisheries Service before that had as many shortcomings as this BiOp," said state biologist Gordon Kruse, head of the Alaska Steller Sea Lion Restoration Team.
In its six recommendations, the scientific review team states that the alternatives outlined in the BiOp are "not justified based on the data and analysis provided." The group notes that fishing closures in many areas were based on historical data that goes back three decades and recommends that contemporary data on present-day fisheries should be included in this analysis.
The restoration team recommends delaying the implementation of an experimental management plan until "a better one has been developed," and states that any regulations in 2001 should be considered temporary.
The NMFS has released its proposed emergency rules to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in order that the fisheries can open on schedule. The basic rules would:
* Prohibit all directed groundfishing within three miles of sea lion haul-outs.
* Modify previous rules to allow up to 60 percent of the catch of pollock and cod to take place in the winter, rather than 40 percent. This is important because the valuable roe fishery takes place in the winter.
* Reduce the Gulf of Alaska pollock catch quota by 10 percent.
* Limit Bering Sea pollock catches within the conservation areas to the levels they were in 2000.
* Close the critical habitat areas defined in the BiOp as of June 10, rather than immediately. This will provide more time to review the science behind the fishery closures and permit the NPFMC to suggest modifications.
Fish and Alzheimer’s
A new study in the U.S. journal "Lipids" claims that eating fish might ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The study, done on 70 test subjects at the University of Guelph at Toronto, found that Alzheimer’s sufferers all had lower levels of docosahexaenoic acid in blood samples than did elderly subjects with normal cognitive functioning.
DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids are found in high concentrations in many fish species, including tuna, salmon and trout, and have been found to lower incidences of cardiovascular disease, depression and attention deficit disorder.
"Our research suggests that the need to increase fish, fish products or other sources of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet of both the population at large and the elderly seems prudent. We should all be eating more fish," said team leader Julie Conquer.
Fish shop attacked
The Independent of London reported that fish and chips shops have become the latest target of animal rights activists. A letter bomb packed with nails exploded at a shop in North Wales, and it’s suspected that the perpetrators are members of the Animal Liberation Front. Previous targets have included animal testing laboratories.
Robin Webb, spokesman for the ALF, said: "When one looks at the meat industry in this country ... there is what is supposed to be humane slaughter. With the fishing industry, there is no such thing. They are dragged out of the water into an alien environment in which they slowly die. There is no pretense of humane slaughter."