sleepless in anchorage
by John Hocevar
October 2, 2007
George and I are at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council mtg in Anchorage this week. George has been to a lot of these week-long monstrosities before, but this is my first time to experience it firsthand. Imagine a process that involves six or more meetings a year, each lasting at least a week, full of nearly impenetrable jargon, at rotating locations spread all over the Pacific Northwest, and you can see pretty quickly that only professional industry lobbyists can hope to fully participate.
There are a handful of conservation-minded folks and small-scale fishermen that try to make a dent here, but for the mostpart it’s by, for, and about the big money fishing industry.
I’m here to present preliminary findings from our canyons exploration, and to start pushing for these areas to be protected. I met with the Scientific and Statistical Committee last night, and things went well. Bob Stone came up from NOAA’s Auke Bay lab in Juneau to provide expert assistance, which was great. Most of the SSC members attended, along with a handful of guests. There were quite a few constructive questions, along with some free-flowing discussion.
In additions to sharing our findings, I also made a case for why the canyons should be set aside as no-take marine reserves. It was a bit disturbing to see how little understanding there was of the existing protections along the Bering Sea shelf break (there are none), but this just helped emphasize the need to fill that gap.
If overheard hallway conversations are any indication, we’ve created quite a buzz here. I heard people talking about the canyons expedition three times yesterday, and we’re not even on the public agenda until Thursday. One lobbyist paced back and forth through the hotel talking loudly on his cel phone, trashing our project at length to a reporter. It was useful hearing what his attacks were going to be in advance!
The real drama will take place Thursday evening, when I present to the N. Pacific Council and the general public. After more than a decade of failing to take action, the Council may finally be ready to move.
Wish us luck!