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In the following pages we submit our arguments in support of our recommendations. These are the arguments of fishermen confronted with the inadequacies and inequities of the present law. If and when the Congress moves to correct them a legalistic presentation will be made through the services of counsel.
1906 1 1907 1 1908 1 1909 1 19101 19111 1912 1 19131 19141 19151 1916 1 19171 1918 1 19192 1920 1 1921 1 1922 1 1923 % 19243 1925 19263 19273 1928 : 1929 3 1930 3 1931 13 1932 3 19333 1934 3 1935 3 1936 3 1937 3 19383 19393 1940 3 1941 3 1942 3 1943 3 1944 3 1945 1946 3 1947 1948 3 1949 3 19503 1951 3 1952 3 19533 1954 3 1955 3
657, 687 1,087, 211 1,074, 667
665, 638 1, 226, 408 1, 423, 161 1, 510, 977 1, 194, 128 1, 365, 616 1, 557, 500 1,677, 513
691, 205 1,077, 824 1. 404, 176 1, 193, 527
524, 395 1, 300, 752
867, 303 1, 341, 208
348, 762 1,048, 917 1, 225, 618 1,588, 008 1, 726, 769
I Output of canned salmon in western Alaska.
All five of the species of Pacific salmon are found in the fisheries of Bristol Bay. The red salmon, due to its abundance, has historically furnished the bulk of the regional pack; fish of other species are caught and canned, but, with the exception of the king salmon fishery of the Nushagak District, this is incidental to the fishing for red salmon.
All of these salmon are anadromous. The eggs of the red salmon are deposited in fresh-water gravels during the summer and fall and hatch during the winter and the following spring. The young fish, after a period in fresh water, which varies according to hereditary factors, migrate to the ocean. There, they attain their full growth and after this period of marine life, which also varies, they return to fresh water as fully mature adults. After spawning, the generation perishes completely.
The mature salmon, except for a negligible percentage of strays, return to spawn in the home stream. If the generations of natural spawners are lost to a given stream for any reason there is very little possibility that it will be seeded and brought into production by strays. Neither is there any assurance that another race, introduced by artificial means, will successfully establish itself in that stream.
None of these salmon are fit for food after they have spawned. They may be taken in maritime waters and processed or they may be permitted to enter fresh water and spawn.
There is no middle course. This is basically a problem in husbandry--the harvest must be divided into seed and food.
But, however simply the problem may be phrased, there is no simple solution to it. It is a known factor in fisheries management that one can reach a point of no return at which additional spawners will not increase the potential return. It even seems likely that such fish by their presence may impair the return. Aside from the waste of permitting such excess fish to proceed into fresh water where they cannot be utilized, there is the loss involved in not having taken them for commercial purposes. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the pressure upon the regulatory agency by both canners and commercial fishermen is severe. Canners operating in Alaskan fisheries must necessarily make extensive investments and commitments which lead them into a let-usbreak-even attitude even in the face of very small salmon runs. In 1953, and again in 1955, delegations of fishermen in the Naknek-Kvichak District called on the Fish and Wildlife Service to stop further commercial fishing so that the few fish then present in the fisheries might ascend the rivers to the almost barren spawning grounds. The canning interests opposed the closures in both instances. As fishermen, by virtue of our residence, are more clearly swayed by considerations relating to the conservation of salmon than are nonresident fishermen. Whereas a desire on their part to stop commercial operations may be due to the fact that fish are so scarce that there is little money to be made in fishing, such a desire on our part is due to the fact that our homes and our families are here. We are conservationists because we know that our future welfare depends upon the state of future runs of salmon.
On one occasion during the season of 1955, 70 boat crews (140 men) were arrested in the Naknek-Kvichak fishery for violation of a conservation measure. Upon trial of these cases in the local commissioner's court it developed that all of these cases involved nonresident fishermen.
The Bering Sea Fishermen's Union, predominently a resident group, was organized in 1951. The Bristol Bay Fish Producers Association was organized in 1954. It is a matter of record that every conservation measure which has found expression in the body of fisheries regulations for this area since these resident organizations have been in existence either was originally proposed by them or received their sponsorship. We are proud of that record.
We hold it to be a serious defect in the basic fisheries legislation that it gives no direct voice to the resident fishermen of Alaska in the administration of the fisheries.
There are five fisheries in Bristol Bay as follows: The Ugashik district, the Egegik nistrict, the Naknek-Kvichak district, the Nshagak district and the Togiak district. The first 4 of these have been exploited for about 60 years. The last has been subject to commercial operations for only two seasons. In the historical fisheries the canning industry, through its evident domination over the regulatory agencies, has inflicted terrible damage by its insatiable demands upon the productivity of the resource.
These fisheries are severely depleted and the regional economy has been correspondingly depressed. It is almost certain, unless the Congress of the United States intervenes, this depletion will soon approach a terminal condition in which the once rich fisheries will no longer offer a feasible economic base for commercial operations. When that time comes, either the canning interests will voluntarily withdraw from active operations for a period of perhaps 5 years to permit the salmon runs to renew themselves, or the Fish and Wildlife Service will close the fisheries to commercial operations for that length of time, and for the same reason. We successfully fought, with the aid of Delegate Bartlett, such a closure order for the Nushagak fishery in 1953. At that time five cannery superintendents were in Washington in support of the closure order. On the basis of that experience we anticipate that closure orders would be sought cooperatively. The Service having permitted the depletion, and the industry having caused it, will jointly recommend the closure to the Secretary of the Interior who, in turn, will promulgate it in regulations. In this manner the door will be closed to all operations, even to marginal resident operations at a subsistence level, until such time as it will appear profitable to the canners to renew the old cycle of abuse.
To the members of the association, either those of native stocks or those who have made their homes in Bristol Bay, who have invested their life savings in fishing boats and gear, and upon whom the future of this frontier area depends, this is a dismal and ruinous prospect. However, the alternative, that of attempting to insure the survival of themselves and their families in their homeland while the fisheries plunge toward a state in which they will be reduced to pitiful remmants and both resident fishing groups bankrupted, is equally unattractive.
We are caught in a cleft stick. As fishermen, living in a region with no other basic industry, we must fish to earn our livelihood. Still, as sincere conservationists, we must admit that further fishing, if conducted according to past practices, will ruin the fisheries upon which we are so dependent. That is the nature of the beast in view.
However, the depletion of these fisheries has its roots in human greed, which has gutted the resource, in human ignorance, which has not known how to administer it, and, most regrettable of all, in human stupidity, which has failed to properly relate the industrial utilization of the resource to its conservation. These causes can be corrected. We are convinced that the Congress of the United States can deliver us from the horns of our dilemma. The Congress can do this by providing a new and sounder basis for the administration and control over the salmon fisheries of Alaska,
And we submit to the members of the subcommittee the following reasons why they should recommend this course to the Congress.
The Congress hears the responsibility for the present condition of the salmon resources in Alaskan waters. These fisheries have been under the jurisdiction of a succession of Federal agencies, by authority of various congressional enactments, since their inception. Such Executive orders and proclamations as have been issued relating to the fisheries have been stopgap and emergency measures pending congressional action. They have never appreciably diminished the authority of the Congress in this sphere.
From 1889 until the present, the Congress has exercised jurisdiction, administration and control over the salmon fisheries of Alaska, either directly or through delegations of authority to appropriate governmental agencies. It is our belief that the Congress, as trustee for the resources of the Territory and the future State of Alaska, could not, and cannot delegate its supervisory function over the fisheries of Alaska to any lesser agency.
The Congress may retain that function indefinitely, but it cannot yield it, except to the Territory or the State.
Therefore, the responsibility for the depletion of Alaska's salmon fisheries rests with the Congress.
This responsibility and the obligation to provide sound basic legislation for the fisheries are two sides of the same coin. We Alaskans believe, because we have been denied the jurisdiction, administration and control over our salmon fisheries by the Congress, that the Congress should acknowledge a special and unique obligation to the Territory to see that its fisheries are wisely administered and controlled.
We submit also for your consideration the argument that not only were we denied the management of our salmon fisheries, but, in addition, by the very terms of the basic fisheries legislation now in effect we are without recourse against the management which was provided.
Sections 1 and 2 of the act of June 6, 1924, as amended by the act of June 18, 1926, will be found on pages 1, 2, and 3 of the laws and regulations for protection of the commercial fisheries of Alaska.
Section 2 states the principle of conservation upon which this act is based : that in all the waters of Alaska in which salmon run there shall be provided not less than a 50 percent escapement of the runs.
Section 1 provides the several methods by which the Secretary of the Interior, at his discretion, may so regulate the fisheries as to accomplish this "intent and policy of Congress."
These, together with the remaining sections of the act, as amended, constitute the basic fisheries legislation now in force, and are known to us fishermen as the White Act.
It is possible to cite many instances, documented by official reports of the Fish and Wildlife Service, in which the congressional directive of section 2 has been flagrantly disregarded. However, no individual fisherman regardless of the depletion of the fisheries caused by such neglect of duty can demonstrate a personal and actionable injury or abuse as against the Secretary of the Interior or the Fish and Wildlife Service. The so-called mandatory escapement provision is not self-operating as it relates to the administrators. Further, granted that the Secretary of the Interior has been given the wide discretionary powers by the Congress which are assigned him in section 1, we fishermen cannot call him to account for the manner in which his discretion has been exercised.
We observe on the one hand that the Congress of the United States alone is competent to act as trustee for the fisheries resources of Alaska, We observe on the other hand that the Secretary of the Interior, in his administration over these fisheries, is under no legal constraint to carry out the policies of the Congress. How can one reconcile these observations?
In summary here we can only say that due to past congressional acts and policies we appear to have no recourse to any course of action through which the Secretary and the Service might be held to an accounting. And as Alaskans we cannot even resort to the ballot to set things right.
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Underlying the urgency for reform of the White Act or for legislation to supercede it is the economic hardship to the fishermen of the Territory, the loss of revenue to the Federal and Territorial governments, and the loss to the national economy which are bound up with the depletion of the fisheries. Officials of the policymaking levels of the Fish and Wildlife Service should be requested to appear before the Congress to explain how and why this depletion took place under Service administration.
It will be seen from the chart on page 2 that the average annual production of red salmon from 1906 until 1945 was approximately 1,014,000 cases.
The average annual production from 1946 until 1955 was approximately 636,000 cases. For the last 3 years the average annual production has been approximately 356,000 cases. This decline in fisheries production, of itself, has severely depressed the regional economy. A Presidential proclamation in the late fall of 1953 designated Bristol Bay as a disaster area.
It is a matter of record that relief food supplies were distributed and limited work relief projects were authorized and carried out in the periods 1953–54 and 1954-55. Similar projects will again be necessary in most of the region during the coming year.
The immediate effects have been severe, but we still have to face the prospect that worse is in store for us. The packs of the Naknek-Kvichak red salmon fishery, once the world's greatest producer of these valuable fish, have been put up for at least three successive seasons at the expense of the escapements. The following table is based upon information released by the Fish and Wildlife Service:
I it, er
ion for luse we salmo ial and nistered
wed T terms against
9, 438, 296
1 Based on visual aerial surveys made after closure of commercial fishing.
based ided Me
The escapement-catch ratio and totals for the Ugashik district, for the Egegik district, and for the Naknek-Kvichak district in 1955 illustrate a failure in management flanked on each side by a disaster in the fisheries worsened by mismanagement. The l'gashik and Egegik districts require escapements according to Service source approximating 1 million fish. In 1955 the escapement at Ugashik was less than 100.000; that at Egegik was less than 300,000.
It is to be expected that much will be made by the Service of the partial rehabilitation of the Nushacak fishery during the past season as shown by the fair pack which was put up while an adequate escapement was provided for most of the spawning areas. This run, however, developed as a complete surprise to the Service. The following quote is from a letter dated February 16, 1955, by the Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Orme Lewis, to Jim Downey, secretary-treasurer of the Bering Sea Fishermen's Union. “Fish and Wildlife Service biologists predict a total run of 1,130.000 fish, or less than the 1.200,000 considered necessary for the proper seeding of spawning grounds.” A run of approximately 3 million red salmon actually developed in the Nushagak fishery. The Service bases its recommendations as to regulations for coming seasons upon its forecasts, and, regrettably, these are almost invariably promulgated as regulations by the Secretary. For such purjoses the Service made five predictions in the fall of 1954, and upon these the 1957 regulations for the Bristol Bay fisheries were based. Every one of these predictions failed miserably to achieve accuracy with the result that the Ugashik, Egegik, Naknek and Kvichak ruus were not properly managed.
There is only one conclusion to be drawn--the Fish and Wildlife Service does not know how to administer the fisheries of Bristol Bay competently.
We submit, at this point, another reason the Congress should enact legislation to amend or to supersede the White Act. Spokesmen for the Service have repeatedly admitted they consider the regulatory authority presently granted them to be inadequate for the conservation of the resource. J. A. Krus, Secretary of the Interior, in a letter dated March 29, 1949, to the chairman of the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, wrote as follows:
“While the authorizations contained in the acts of 1.906 and 1926, as amended, were adequate to accomplish this conservation and development of the fishery resources of Alaska when they were enacted, conditions have changed materially in the ensuing years and the proper conservation and management of these fisheries resources can be accomplished only if more realistic management practices are authorized to be utilized by the Secretary of the Interior."
No congressional action was taken at that time; indeerl, no congressional legislation, significant in the overall control of Alaska's fisheries, has been enacted since 1926.
While the Department this places the blame for its functional failure upon congressional neglect, the Service declines to make recommendations to the Congress for legislative revision on ground of protocol. In this emergency such nicety is stupid; it officially stultifies any approach to the legislative process through appropriate channels. The Congress, itself, should intervene.
We would not seek or expect the Congress to intervene if we were alone in our troubles. However, the provisions of the White Act and of most of the regulations which have been promulgated under its authority are of general application. The fisheries of Alaska are a geographie, economic, administrative unit. The problems of depletion and industrial control are not present only in the red salmon fisheries of Bristol Ray. These are general problems. Alaskans from the other fishing districts will doubtless appear before the subcommittee to be heard on these subjects. The total Alaska pack in 19.55 for all species of salmon approximates 2,250,000 cases-an alltime low. The situation deserves the attention of the Congress.
The White Act is entitled "An act for the protection of the fisheries of Alaska, and for other purposes."
We maintain that those provisions of the act which are referred to as being "for other purposes" are, so far as administrative function is concerned, incompatible with its conservation features. The purposes of the act are stultified by its provisions.