TRANSCRIPT - William Bergmann
Bergmann is an area management biologist with the Alaska Department
of Fish and Game in Petersburg, Alaska.
What is this disaster that is happening with salmon in the lower
in-season management means going out and looking on a daily basis
and seeing how many fish are coming in. If there arent any
fish coming in, we close the fishery down. If there are, we open
more area up.
The way its been done in Washington, for instance?
We used to do
things based on pre-season forecasts, and relied on those heavily.
But it hasnt worked. The fisheries dont survive. We
just cant tell how strong the runs are going to be or how
weak they are going to be. So we have to go out in season and check
them all the time.
Why not start a total attack on the beginning of the season and
then go from there?
The only way
that works is if what you think is going to happen before the season
starts is actually what happens. And we all know Mother Nature is
very, very fickle. Sometimes she returns a lot of fish, and sometimes
very few. We have to respond to that, otherwise we are going to
overfish the resource. And we dont want to do that. We are
here to preserve it for the future, not just for today.
How are you monitoring the fish?
We fly around
in a little plane, The Supercub, the pilot and I. And
we count fish and we compare it to what we think should be in there
this time of year. And if it looks better than that, then we open
the areas that are adjacent. And if it doesnt, we end up closing
them, or not opening them.
How does that work? Can you see the fish from up there?
We count the
fish. When I am flying along I am looking down at the salmon stream
and you can see the different species of fish. They usually come
in at different times. You can see the different concentrations
of them. When they just start to come in, you can see them -- just
a few fish. And you count em by the hundreds, maybe. When
theres more, you count em by the thousands and when
youre by Ann Ann youre counting them by the ten thousands.
Thats how many fish are there. And then I just relate that
to what Ive seen in the past.
Its up to you whether the fishery is open or closed?
Having the fishery
run by the people that know the most about the salmon run in season
is the only way that the runs survived. And if it was politically
motivated, and there was some reason we had to fish, eventually
wed over-harvest the salmon.
But that isnt
how we do it. I cover an area of about fifty miles on either side
of this community and look at the salmon in each different area
every three days and based upon that Ill have either an opening
for fishing or wont have an opening for fishing.
Is there pressure brought to bear on you sometimes, for example
from a fisherman or a processor?
At times, fishermen
get extremely aggravated about the things I do but they realize,
in the long run, that if we want fish several years from now, we
have to conserve them.
not a pleasant thing. You know, people have their livelihoods, their
incomes, boat payments. Youve got to put food on the table
for the winter. But they realize you cant overfish the resource
this year and expect it to come back strong in years to come. It
just doesnt work.
Has in-season management paid off? Just how valuable has it been?
1960 in statehood, the fish were at a pretty low level. And we have
had the benefit of Mother Nature. The runs have rebuilt themselves,
with our help. And its been very positive watching this happen.
And this doesnt
mean the runs wont go down. Last year we had the biggest run
ever recorded in mankind. This year, were probably going to
have a run that is probably the worst in the last ten years. But
we have responded by not opening a lot of the areas so we can get
the escapement for the future.
Anything that you would care to add about your work?
Well, I have
been doing this for twenty-eight years. And although there are a
lot of negative things about it, the plusses far outweigh the negatives.
Being able to do this, being able to watch the resource, how it
has responded. Its been just fantastic.
Do you think the care you guys give is something that can help restore
We were given
a lot of latitude with statehood. Conservation is a key part of
Alaska. And if you dont have conservation, youre not
going to be able to have fish for the future, whether its
in-season management or its some other type of thing. Youve
gotta be able to shut down the fisheries when things arent
right. That way, when things are right, you have exceptional fisheries.
You are monitoring both escapement and catch. Can you speak to that?
If you dont
have some idea of how much youre catching, you dont
know what you are taking out of the resource. So, you might think
that everything is well and good, but if you are catching a lot
more and you cant immediately respond to it, you are going
to over-harvest things.
So you have
to have the cooperation of the fishermen and the harvesters. They
cooperate, but its a legal responsibility. You have to have
that catch reporting; otherwise you are going to over-harvest the
resource. Thats just a given fact. You cant be out there
taking all you want without knowing how much youre taking
and still think that youre going to get enough for future.
There are a
number of other users of this resource besides just man. As you
saw up there, the bears eat a lot, the seals, sea lions. Everyone
gets their share of the salmon. And we dont manage for that
specifically, but we allow enough upstream so that there is going
to be plenty for everybody.