St. Paul Island

by Guest Blogger

July 12, 2006

The following posting is from oceans campaigner John, who is onboard in the Bering Sea… 

Greetings from St. Paul Island, the slightly more developed Pribilof partner to St. George.  There’s more of a commercial fishing industry here; Trident Seafoods has a plant right across from where we are docked, and we’ve seen a couple trawlers pass through.  

The Defender, a large bottom trawler from Maine that pulled up next to us today, said they moved up here eight years ago because the fishing in the northeast had gotten terrible.  This is a common story.  Too often we fish until populations are depleted. Instead of learning from our mistakes, we then just transfer the fishing pressure somewhere else and start the cycle over again.  

Whether you’re at the airport in Anchorage alongside scores of camo-clad big game hunters or at a commercial fishing hub like Dutch Harbor alongside factory trawlers out of Seattle, it is hard to escape the feeling that Alaska is where the rest of America comes to kill things.  Unfortunately, the cost for subsistence and small-boat commercial fishermen is pretty steep.

This morning, we had a visit from Phil Zavadil of the Tribal Council’s ecosystem office.  We took the boat out and helped him deploy a buoy that will monitor sub-surface temperaturesas part of a project by the Tribal Government of St. Paul and World Wildlife Fund.  This data will be useful in tracking global warming, which, along with fishing, is having enormous (and little understood) impacts on the Bering Sea ecosystem.

Craig-the-killer-whale-biologist has left the boat, soon to be replaced by Dave-the-humpback- and-killer-whale-biologist.  Carroll and James from our Washington D.C. office are now on board, getting ready to take over for Steph and I when we leave in a couple days.  At least that’s the plan!  The Bering Sea tends to laugh at travel plans of any kind.  When we got to St. George, they had just welcomed the first flight in after 28 straight days of cancellations.  St. Paul has a bit of a better track record lately, but they still went nine days in a row without any flights making it in.

It’s been an adventure.  We’ve learned a lot, made some friends, and made a good start at documenting the people and wildlife that make the Bering Sea so special.  Tomorrow, we’ll meet with the community here to talk about what we’ve seen so far and get their input on the plans we’re starting to develop for the future.

The best thing we’ve learned on this trip so far is that we’ve got a lot of people who are ready to work with us here.  That’s a good thing, because there’s a lot that needs to be done.

– John

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