This documented report was presented, in person, to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Dec of 2007 on Guam.
Illigal, Unreported, & Unidentified (IUU) "High Seas" drift net fleet devastate, demolish & wipe out, not only fish and marine wildlife and mammals, but especially US, Canadian, and international "High Seas" Albacore Tuna "Troll" Fishermen.
Hafa-day, Talofa, Aloha, Bulla, Good-Day and Hello to All,
My name is John Harder of the United States. I am the owner/operator of the f/v "Walloda" registered in the Cook Islands # CI96/10- HS0014003 and also f/v "Miss Angie" US Doc. # 546377. Both vessels and I were involved in "High Seas" (off-shore) Trolling for Albacore Tuna in both North & South Pacific Ocean. It was a prosperous fishery until the drift net fleet took it over.
In October, 2005, both f/v "Walloda" and f/v "Miss Angie" (I was the captain of f/v "Walloda") ran across a driftnet fleet working in the North Pacific. I reported to my fishing association, American Albacore Fisheries Association(AAFA), and together we got a "Fly-by" response from the USCG. I took my report "Driftnet Fleet Encounter" to the second session of the WCPFC on Dec, 2005 in Pohnpei, Micronesian Islands. With the help of the Cook Islands delegates, & representatives of the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association (PITIA), I got heard. Too bad my report was not numbered or posted for the public. At least the PITIA got something. I think it was around 2 million USD for travel expenses. I got nothing but the pleasure of meeting some nice people.
After a long hard winter fishing in the South Pacific, we finally sailed from Tahiti in June, 2006. We reached our traditional fishing grounds by the 1st of July & caught our 1st fish on July 6th. Our position was only 50 miles from where we left the driftnet fleet the year before.
On July 7th at position 38%.48N x 169%.40E we caught our 1st of many driftnet marked Albacore Tuna. The fish had fresh markings & was still bleeding from broken tail & skin. We were crushed! My partner boat, f/v "Miss Angie", was some 30 miles away from our position & reported catching up to 40% driftnet marked fish. We came from the East with no sightings of driftnets, so we knew the IUU driftnet fleet was to the west of us. There was also a good formation of water edges to the west in which we were heading for. The water edges were forming a natural "Fish Trap" & I was certain this was were the driftnet fleet was located.
On July 8th, I started e-mails, threw Stratos, to everyone I could think of.
1st e-mail was to my association (AAFA) manager,Natalie Webster. Then e-mail USCG, Greenpeace international, Langi Toribau. I continued to e-mail NOAA officer, Judith Fogary, Cook Islands fisheries Minestry, Ian Bertram. I shot mesagess all across the "Troll" fleet & my family back home. I was so sad... I'm not sure that all the e-mails got threw, but I got responses from a few.
Thanks to AAFA, my fishing association, Our reports were passed on to the USCG all over the pacific. I asked if USCG had made any convictions(busts) yet, and if not, why? The answer I got was that USCG had cutters, and planes standing by, to just say "Where & When"!
We then passed on the positions of our location & what looked best to the west for "fishing activity". We left the scene heading east, since it was, again, non-productive.
As we moved to the east, some 3,000 miles to the west coast, our fish continued to be beat up! The marine life was all messed up, and not acting normal. Just as the Ocean was back in the 80's before the "Ban" by United Nations. I wished I had observers on board to see & document the condition of our(MY) Ocean life. Porpoise scattered, not in formation, like they do. As if picking out the new leaders. Strange acting Killer Whales were circling the boat real slow. Some Orcas were jumping 20 feel in the air! This was NOT for their feeding. They seemed angry to me.
On July 12th, we got a report from another sustainable Tuna Troll vessel. They had a "fly-by" from a USCG plane. Plane circled vessel, then flew off heading Northwest. That sparked our hopes that there may be action taken. There was nothing we could do, except take pictures of the marked-up fish that we caught. The same fish that made it threw the "walls of death", or fell out while struggling...
We had no fish production until we reached 140%W, which is around 800 miles west of the US west coast. The fish that we caught had signs of driftnet marks too. Production fell off quickly, so we moved farther east.
As we neared the West Coast, we got stopped again by some production, only to see the same grade of fish as we had before. Our position was 132%W at that time. We took more pictures and slowly moved to the coast. Soon all up & down the west coast had reports of driftnet marked fish. The US Troll fleet made mention of driftnet marked fish in their log books to be submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service(NMFS). This was not just me!
I think this trip was a verified observation (true scientific data) of a typical migration pattern of our Albacore Tuna. The species moves very quickly, at times, from west to east, following the currants and water temperatures. Our Sustainable Troll Tuna Fleet has been proving this fact for over 20 years. We have been migrating with the fish, proving this fact over & over again. I heard word, a tagged Albacore Tuna off the coast of WA. was caught 3 weeks later at 168%E, somewhere close to our July position. This was in 2006. This year another tagged Albacore Tuna was caught off the coast of Japan. History repeats itself!
After regrouping in October, 2006, in Vancuvor, BC and outward bound, Canadian Boarder Patrol plane did a "fly- by" on us. I spoke to the Fisheries Personnel for some time. He asked about the fishing and I told him how we were going out of business with the IUU driftnets. He then thanked me for the tip on the positions and said some 20 + driftnet boats were spotted. He further said how other nations were getting involved and even the Russia kicked some ass. That's great, but that dose me no good now. It's too late! They will be back unless we take up a catch documentation scheme. I sure wont be around to help. I can't even help myself. Besides, something died inside of me.
In my report in 2005, I asked for nothing except my fishing grounds back and everything as it was, or should be. Instead driftnet boats were stronger than ever. I feel betrayed!
Now I want compensation. I stated in my 2005 report that 2 million of my income was taken from me. I figure another 2 million for the past 2 years of loss and not to forget for the years to come. I also must mention the mental anguish I went threw and am still experiencing.
I am asking for 4 million USD from the owners, or Countries, or those who are responsible in this organized crime of the IUU driftnet boats. I would like to settle in a peaceful way and be done with it "let it go". I do not want to, but will press charges, or go threw the UN tribunal, if I must. I also request the public to hear of this too. All must be brought into the light.
This year, 2007, twelve driftnet boats were reported that I know of. USCG made a bust on September 10th, according to Captain Jeff Manney, printed in the Victoria Times. Published on September 29th, 2007. 10 vessels were photographed, involved with IUU driftnet fishing..
And the slaughter, and the rape continue on our Oceans!
Let my logbooks, USCG reports, NMFS reports be my proof of IUU "High Seas" driftnet activity in the North Pacific.
I would like to give some examples, if I may, Say you had a small market, or store somewhere, And SUDDENLY, a bunch of "hoods" came in and ransacked your store, robbing you. You call the Police and they respond. They go after the "hoods", and finally catch the gang and put them in jail. Are they not responsible for wrecking your store, or what they stole from you? Now, let me ask you, what if the Police just said, "oh well"," Too bad", or came by a week later and then it's too late to catch anyone. What if the police caught the thugs, then just let them go and they came back a week later & robbed you again, only this time they put a bullet in your head!
What if you, and your tribe of people were living on the open plains. Your main life-style was to follow the hoards of buffalo around for food and clothing. Life was good. Then some crazy people came and slaughtered all the buffalo? You and your family are left to Perish. Dose this sound familiar? Where is the justice?
This is not just a report on IUU "High Seas" driftnetting, It's a cry for help. These driftnets have harmed me, my family, and my fishery immensely. Not to mention "The Ocean"! What people are doing to stop this is NOT working. We need to adopt a "catch documentation scheme", such as MSC.
Yours Truly, John Harder
Some questions for WCPFC:
- Were there any repeat offenders from 2005 that were spotted in 2006, 2007?
- What is the "Deal" (trade agreement, foreign policy) between China & the US that everyone seems to know, but me?
- Why dosn't China, Japan, Taiwan, & Korea have a "Troll" fishery? (driftnetting is dishonorable. Might as well nuke them out of the water).
- Is Japan's trade Co. involved with brokering fish for boats busted in 2006, 2007? If not, What Countries are?
- Where were the fish heading to & what market? Is there any involvement in US markets? ( "Chicken of the Sea", Starkist", Bumblebee)??
- Who are the owners of these vessels, Primarily?
- How much in their storage? (swordfish, salmon, shark, etc)
- What legal action is being taken on the vessels caught in 2006?
- Why did the US State dep. release driftnet Capitan. on Guam without prosecution?
- Why should we not prosecute now?
- Shouldn't there be a reward for aiding and assisting in the arrest of such IUU vessels?
- US NMFS is giving money to Salmon fishermen for loss of income for the past years. What about "High Seas" fishermen in International waters? They receive nothing?
- Why dose NMFS, NOAA, AFRF, etc. develop a fishery, then allow it to be taken away by IUU driftnets?
- Lastly, but never the least, Why are there NO sanctions on these Countries involved in IUU "High Seas" driftnets?
The outcome of this meating was NO "Change". There was NO mention, or motion made by the WCPFC on "High Seas" IUU driftnet fishing activity.
In the report to Congress: 98 driftnet sightings were made. 0 convictions
No "0" IUU driftnet vessels made it to the "IUU List"!