2021 Report on South Pacific Albacore Troll Season

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South Pacific Albacore Season, 2021, was a Bust!

John Harder (JB) reporting for Pacific Albacore Trollers (PATAI) & OFAD.

Over 20 Albacore Trollers left the West Coast last fall, after a lean North season, to make there way to the South Pacific to start fishing before the 1st of the year. After having a successful season, the previous year, 2020, their hopes were high. The 1st boats on the grounds had a bit of a sign, but slowly dwindled and fishing became very spotty. Boats tried spreading out but did not seem to matter. There seemed to be no concentration, or new run of fish migrating threw. What was 300-500 fish a day, per vessel, last year, turned into 40-140 fish per day, this year. And the high boat was way above the average being 50 fish per day.

There were also net scratches on some fish. What little was around, especially the 10-11 lb average fish had light scratches on them, indicating the mesh of the webbing may be big. Possibly nets for targeting swordfish, but hard to tell.

There were reports of some good fishing on the West Coast of New Zealand this year. It could be that Ocean conditions were better in the Tasman Sea, and the fish stayed to the west. We have had seasons where the fish are far to the East also. The vessel coverage was limited being that most all boats started from the far West, & never made it East of the 140. Cold water pushed up higher towards the East, but no hard edges that stood out. The Trollers had nothing to stop and work most of the season.

All the Albacore Trollers are back on the West Coast now, licking their wounds. With the fuel bill & all the expenses added up, they might have broken even. That means no pay for the crew & small pay for a Captain for the past 6 months at sea. That sucks! Heaven forbids anything drastic went wrong that would set things back in a hurry.

In observing the AIS Marine Traffic, & Global fishing Watch, I couldn’t help noticing all the vessels the showed up after the last South Pacific season was over. From April, 2020- August, 2020, lots of Taiwan & China long liners worked their way east, not far from where us Jig boats were fishing. Many registered in Vanuatu & coming down from the pocket of international waters between the Islands.

Sure enough, in mid-February 2021, two Chinese big long liners were arrested & detained in Vanuatu. They had no fish on board, but what they did have was a drift net! Go figure!

We have had great enforcement 2 years ago, but what happen? Did our enforcement back off or drop the ball? Wonder what Interpol & the international enforcement teem are doing. We cannot have high enforcement one year & then not the next. IUU pirates never sleep.

We need a new ordinance or ruling.:

Any vessel caught with a IUU driftnet shall be scuttled!

If caught with a driftnet, or pair trawling for Albacore, vessel crew should be transferred off the vessel, fuel & oil transfer off if possible, & the vessel sunk to the bottom of the sea! That is how we stopped pirates in the past. It worked then; it will work now!

China has a 0-tolerance law, so let us help them enforce it. Not escort a IUU vessel to their home state & release them! How is that helping? That does not send a strong message at all. Our sustainable fishing vessels have our livelihoods at stake here. None of us can afford to wait for another year, or 10, to go by, hoping that something is going to be done.

In conclusion, the South Pacific season this year was just “Not worth going” & not much hope for next year unless more IUU vessels are eliminated.

We are all hoping for things to develop close to the West Coast this North season coming up. Maybe there will be enforcement out by the dateline & the fish will have a chance to migrate across the Ocean. Fat chance? Time will tell.

Hope good fishing to all & stay safe,

John Harder (JB)

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