TRANSCRIPT - Rob Bruce
Bruce is a commercial fisherman in southeast Alaska. Alabama.
As a fisherman who's fishery has implemented IFQ's, can you speak
about how IFQ's have affected you?
I've been shut
out of this particular fishery, the halibut and sable fish in Alaska,
through the implementation of the IFQ's. I was not fishing as a
skipper during the window period, so I didn't get any of the appropriations.
However, they are about to implement some sort of management plan
in the albacore fishery that I am involved in now. And in that fishery,
if they go with IFQ's, I'll qualify for a significant amount. So
I'll have one fishery where I've been shut out of it and another
where I have access to it.
I know in the
albacore fishery in particular, the managers have said that no matter
what happens with the way it is going to be managed, there are going
to be fewer fishermen in the future. That the goal of any management
program is going to be to reduce the number of fishermen. For the
benefit of the resource, I guess. That seems to be the strategy
that they are applying.
How have IFQ's affected you? And is there a way to get back in?
They can buy
back into the fishery. The quota shares are traded on the open market.
There is money available in a loan program for entry-level people
to participate in the fishery and it's certainly a possibility to
buy back into the fishery.
How do you feel about the fact that fishermen on the East Coast,
and probably elsewhere, are suspicious of IFQ's. How does it feel
that you've put in all this work and yet you've missed this window
Well, a lot
of people got nailed. One of the drawbacks to the program is that
the people that fished hard up until the window period started,
and quit that year had 50 years of fishing experience and got nothing
for it. It was only the people that fished during this particular
time that actually profited at all from the quota system.
And was your situation after this window period?
I was working
as a deckhand during the window period and had a good season the
last year of the window period with a partner, and we bought a boat
the year that it closed and we had four years to fish it before
the system was implemented. And we were shut out after that four-year
How many other people have been shut out?
There were a
significant percentage of the fishermen involved in these long line
fisheries that were shut out.
All in all, could you state your feelings about IFQ's? Do they work?
Are they a good thing?
IFQ's are a
management tool. Whether they are appropriate for every fishery
or not, is not determined. They are working in Alaska, due to the
effort of people like Arne who put a lot of effort into getting
this loan program together. By working, I mean the quota is not
being consolidated as rapidly a rate as it would be otherwise and
there are avenues for people to be involved with the fishery if
they so choose to.
Whether it is
appropriate for east coast dragging or for albacore trawling, it's
up in the air at this point. All fisheries are different and they
need to be looked at on an individual basis, in my opinion.
With regard to the halibut and sable fisheries out here, were the
IFQ's a goodthing? Were they necessary?
I think IFQ's
were a good thing for the resource. It spread the effort out over
a 7-month period as opposed to two 24-hour periods. And it has certainly
improved safety on the ocean for fishermen. And I think in general,
something had to be done at some point. We couldn't continue to
have the open access.
As a fisherman who has fished not just in Alaska, but also in other
fisheries in other parts of the world, how would you rate fisheries
management in Alaska?
The halibut fishery has been managed for 75 years up here. There's
a pool of data that is beyond what any other fishery that I am aware
of has and the state does an outstanding job managing the crab fisheries
and the salmon fisheries, in my opinion, even though there are contentious
issues that come up from time to time and people don't always agree
with what everything is done. But, by and large, I think they do
a great job. And I think most people would agree with that.
How come that isn't so in other places? In many other places we
have been, there has been a lot of distrust between fishermen and
scientists or fishermen and management. Why is that not the case
I think that
maybe the longevity of the programs up here is part of that. The
salmon, or the halibut, fishery has been managed for 75 years and
people are used to the system, they are used to the regulation,
they are used to having the scientists set the total allowable catch
every year and that's what people go with. So I think maybe the
longevity of the program makes that attitude a little bit different.
Do your peers and colleagues here share your sentiments about fisheries
I think in general,
people do. I know that people have problems with the management
from time to time, too. And there's fishermen's organizations in
place that deal with those things when they come up and lobby a
lot for variances and put a lot of effort into getting the fishermen's
view into the regulatory process, which it really needs to be a
scientists and fishermen - everyone involved needs to be a part
of the process of doing it. But my sense is that people like the
management programs that are in place in Alaska, in general.
I'm pretty pro-regulation
though, too. A lot people aren't as pro-regulation as I am. I see
the benefits of it and I make enough money doing what I do the way
I do it, so I'm conservation-minded and regulation-oriented.
What is it that you like about fishing?
I like the seasonal
work. I work best in project-to-project, season-to-season type jobs
where I am not having the next 20 years mapped out for me and know
that I am going to be at the office at 9:00 every morning for the
next 20 years. I like that flexibility in my life. I know that I
can take off in the spring if I want to and I can take off in the
fall. I can fish when I want to, I can fish all winter in the South
Pacific if I want to. I like that flexibility in my life. I try
to keep the workload under six months a year and I like that as
There are other things that are seasonal as well. But why do you
a camaraderie that develops between fishermen. You come in from
a trip and you meet each other in the processing plant, or in the
restaurants or the coffee shops and there's a camaraderie that's
developed. You have common experiences and you can relate those
to each other in ways that other people can't really understand.
You know, fishermen's restaurants or bars all over the world are
really similar, all that I've traveled in anyway. I've been in a
lot of different places.
How about the social dynamic aboard the boat? Is the crew, or teamwork
something that is enjoyable?
It can be very
enjoyable. It can be very horrifying as well, if personalities don't
match and you're out there for a month or two together it can be
a very hard time too. But it forces you to deal with things. And
try and make it work. The longline fisheries in Alaska aren't quite
as crucial because people are doing shorter trips and when you get
to town you can always part ways if you want to.
But if you're
albacore fishing and you're on the ocean for a couple of months
at a time you need to really get along with who you're out there
with. It can get tense.
You've got hot springs around?
hot springs around. Here in the southeast, there are enough warm
springs as a social hub during the seine opening, so a lot of the
fishing fleet goes in there in between openings and partakes of
What's the hardest thing about fishing?
For me, it's
my relationship with my partner. We're apart a lot. She carries
fish with me on a number of occasions, but it's not really her calling.
And she will go right out on the ocean for a two-month trip with
me but she doesn't want to. She has other things in her life that
she needs to do, so it definitely pulls us apart a little bit and
that is something that we are constantly dealing with. And that's
a difficult aspect, no question.