TRANSCRIPT - Arne Fuglvog
Fuglvog is a commercial fisherman in Petersburg, Alaska, who
also participates in fisheries policymaking.
How have ITQs affected fishing?
I think the
biggest positive is in regards to the conservation of the resource.
There is a tremendous amount of waste and unwanted bycatch, and
we would shake the species that we weren't allowed to keep when
we were fishing for IFQ or pre-IFQ. For halibut in the derby days,
we would have to discard all of our sable fish. And when we were
fishing sable fish, we would have to discard all of our halibut
-- waste of millions of pounds of fish. I think that now that we
can keep them both has probably been the biggest positive.
And the other
one is the lost gear. In the derby days we would set as much gear
as possible because we would only have 24 or 48 hours to fish. And
a lot of times, you didn't get all of your gear back, especially
if the weather was really bad. So there'd be all of this lost gear
on the bottom, ghost fishing, and catching and killing millions
of pounds of fish. So I think those two things have been the biggest
The next thing
would be safety. We would have to fish in any kind of weather. The
season would be set on that day, and we would have to go no matter
what the forecast was, no matter what the seas came up. And it was
pretty bad. Sometimes hauling gear in 25-foot seas -- 60, 70 knots.
And once you set your gear, you're kind of at mercy. You pretty
much have to get it back. So the safety factor has been one of the
What are some of the negatives of derby fishing?
In a derby fishery
it was open access, so anybody could go. There was an unlimited
number of vessels, all trying to race and catch as much fish as
possible in this set amount of time. And in halibut we had 4,500
boats going out on the day.
throw gear on the boat, go out, set up as much gear as possible.
It was incredibly crowded. You would be setting gear on top of other
boats. You were side by side, sometimes you would have 12 or 13
of us setting all together in the same area, with the gear getting
tangled up on top of each other. And then we would just start hauling
back as fast as we could, trying to catch as much fish.
Because we knew
we only had one, maybe two shots at it, to make our entire living
from that halibut fishery. It was crazy! Total disregard for weather,
for safety. There was just this mad race that was getting completely
out of hand, with the number of boats going out there.
it was just a day, boats could come from anywhere, doing anything
else and gear up for just one day of fishing. There wasn't any real
preparation. The gear expenses weren't that high. Just throw it
on board and go. So going from an 8-, 9-month season over time,
right down to one day is really what happened, over probably a 15-year
How is your fishing different now that there are ITQs?
Under the present
ITQ system, we have an 8-month season. We can choose when we go
out and fish. We can choose to go in good weather. We can go when
the prices are high. We can work it around our other fisheries.
We can work it around our crew schedule, our family schedule. It's
totally at our discretion, and that gives us the ability to pick
the best weather.
We can buy quota
in the areas we want to fish. If we want to fish close to home,
we buy quota near our home and fish there. Maybe we sell the quota
that we had out west, or we don't buy any out there, so we don't
have to be so far from home. It's just totally up to us now. The
skipper of the boat gets to choose and we work out when, where,
and how we want to fish. We fish totally different now.
What would you say are the two best reasons why the halibut fishery
is such a world-renowned, sustainable fishery?
The two biggest
reasons, in my mind, are good management and industry involvement.
We did exceed the quota in a number of those years when we were
derby fishing because it's so difficult, even in a 24-hour period,
to control what three or four thousand boats can catch. And so we
were exceeding the TAC fairly regularly, even for halibut, more
so for sable fish than halibut. But since ITQs, we have not exceeded
the TAC in any area, even once.
Because you are working against some of the negatives, what are
you trying to do on behalf of some of the people who are left out?
One way we're
trying to increase the ability for an initial entrant to buy in
is to provide a loan program, which was part of the Magnuson-Stevens
re-authorization. Now we are actually being taxed 3% of our gross
revenues from IFQ fisheries. Part of that funding funds a loan program
to go towards initial entrance who have small amounts of quota or
no quota at all.
that we are trying to keep access available is by keeping small
amounts of quota available to buy. We try to keep the consolidation
down. And we've put in tools and constraints to allow for small
amounts of quota to remain out there. Something that initial entrants
could actually afford to buy. Because if the quota is so expensive
and there's just nothing small to buy, then someone who's just getting
started in a small boat can't afford to buy. And we've got to keep
that initial access to entrants. It's vital.
It's no longer an open fishery, but it's not entirely closed either?
Well, it's not
open. You have to buy in to get in now. So it makes it more expensive.
But I think that it offers you more security now than it did in
the old days because you didn't know what could happen. Now you
have a set amount of pounds that you can try to maximize by going
out and fishing again, in good weather, for the best price, with
as few expenses as you can. Maybe you and your family or you and
another crew, or you and another IFQ holder, to try to maximize
your investment, get the best return and keep that fishery viable
Do you think ITQs are helping to encourage a better sense of stewardship?
I think one way to look at is, I have a 25-year loan and for the
next 25 years I am going to be paying off that loan from my revenues
from IFQ fishing. I want that fishery to be around at least during
that time and I want my son to be able to have this fishery also.
I think it's a great lifestyle; it's a great way to make a living.
And I want him to have the same opportunities that I do. The only
way I can assure that is to fish responsibly myself and try to get
others to fish the same way.
Do you think that one of the reasons why ITQs have been successful
is because of the way that they foster stewardship?
I do think
it's true that ITQs have fostered better stewardship. And one of
the main reasons is that we do own part of the resource. We own
the right to go out and harvest and we want to keep that right going.
We want to go out each year and catch fish. We want to keep the
resource healthy. We don't want to overfish it. We want to keep
it for future generations, and so there's some long term view there
that we want to keep it healthy, we want to keep it viable, and
we want to keep making a living at it for as long as we can and
for our kids.
I think that
the halibut and sable ITQ program is working in Alaska. We still
have things we need to work out. That's why I'm part of the IFQ
implementation team in the AP, to take industry's input and try
to make this a better program. What with the industry's involvement
and the commitment from fishermen and the agencies to make it the
best program we can, I think we are going to be able to do that.
And we have a process up here that can address those things and
do the best we can and to try to work out the bugs. The program
is still not that old. So we have some improvements we can make,
but I think it's working.
You're not only a fisherman, but you are also involved in fisheries
policymaking towards the sustainable use of the resource. Why are
You know, I've
been asked that question before and it's a difficult answer, but
I think the biggest reason is that it's important to me to keep
these fisheries healthy. It's important to me as an individual,
my family, and my community and to the state as a whole. Alaska,
and Petersburg especially, really rely on the fishery, so I just
have a deep commitment to making these things work.
And I figure
anything I can do that helps is for the benefit of a lot of people,
as well as myself. So there's some altruism there, but it's also
a commitment I've decided to make. And I kind of feel that it's
my turn. I have followed others from the community here, including
my father, who have been involved in the process and have done a
lot of really good things and so I had good examples of that.
Do you anticipate that the National Marine Fisheries Service might
find some resistance when they start fine-tuning and looking for
other impact on wildlife?
Sure. I want
to state up front that the industry and the Council that we work
with are very cognizant of resource conservation. But at the same
time, as we move towards actions to affect fishing behavior -- how
fisheries can conduct themselves and taking a precautionary approach
-- we may not have the facts. But because we may not have the facts,
we may be asking the fishery to cut back or to move out from desirable
fishing areas to avoid a potential problem. And the science gets
questioned because we are affecting people's ability to fish or
hitting their pocketbook.
we're being questioned; we're being challenged on the science probably
from both ends. People who don't believe we're doing enough, people
who believe we are doing too much and when you're not dealing in
an environment where you don't have all the facts before you, you're
doing the best that you can trying to meet the objective that you
want to meet. And taking a precautionary approach that hurts people's
pocketbooks certainly will be challenged.
I hear that most of the flatfish and the rockfish are being exported
to Asia, mostly to Japan. How about the pollock? There's a huge
amount of pollock being harvested. Where's it going?
There are three
main products that are being produced from the pollock industry.
The highest value product is roe, and that's harvested when the
fish are just prior to spawning in the February/March period. And
that mostly goes to Asia.
Surimi is a
product that's a flesh product that primarily goes back East as
well. And then there's some fillet market and that's what primarily
is used in this country in terms of the fish burgers that you see
at McDonald's or whatever. It's kind of a replacement product that's
used interchangeably with cod, in terms of a fillet product.
What is it like being a part of a community like Petersburg?
I think the
best part of living in Petersburg is the heritage that we have.
And with the fishing community as the center part of this town,
there's a real closeness you grow up with. A lot of my friends are
fishermen. My father and my friends' fathers were fishermen. And
so we have a real deep connection to that. I do have a lot of pride
in coming from a fishing community and a community that was built
from fishing and is still very viable. It's our main industry. And
I want to keep it that way.
What is it like to be in a family that's fished for 4 or 5 generations?
You're not fully
aware of it all the time. But I certainly know it was passed on
down to me. I was taught by my grandfather and my father, and I
am hoping that my son will be taught by my father and by me. And
that heritage is kind of very subtle but it's there and it's prevalent.
You feel that you are continuing the tradition of your family. And
there's a responsibility to me that comes with that, especially
when you are following my grandfather and my father, who were successful
and very prominent fishermen. So there's a responsibility to carry
on with the family and do things right.
What do you love most about fishing?
That's a tough
question. I love being out on the sea and hauling the gear back
and not knowing what you're going to catch. And then when you start
to see the fish coming aboard and you start to realize you are going
to have a really great day that day. You may not fill the boat,
but you know you are going to get a lot of fish. And it's a good
feeling. It's a feeling of satisfaction. I think a lot of things
I've done in my life have been satisfying, but I remember going
to bed at the end of a day of working 20 or 24 hours and putting
a lot of fish in the hole -- that sense of satisfaction, I don't
think I've ever felt that in many other things that I've done.
Say all of a sudden you had to change professions for some reason.
What would you miss the most?
I would miss
a number of things. I would certainly miss being out there. I have
grown up my whole life on the water. And being here in Petersburg
and southeast with the mountains right there, when I get away from
that I am definitely disoriented.
But it would
be the camaraderie the relationship with my crew. The relationship
I have with my wife when we are working together and my kids. I
would really miss that opportunity to work that closely with people.
Sometimes in some really adverse conditions that create some really
strong bonds that I don't think you get in other occupations.
What are some of the hardships making your living in fishing?
The most difficult
thing on your family is being away. It's going fishing and being
away from home. And that definitely is hard. It's difficult for
your family for you to be gone and it's difficult for us to be away
from home. All fishermen have to deal with that at times, to a different
extent. I think probably the physical-ness of the work is also a
hardship. You have to stay in shape to be able to keep up. And it's
a very physical lifestyle, which is something I find rewarding,
but at the same time it can take its toll, also.
a lot of responsibility with it. You have a number of people that
are really relying on you to make correct decisions. And sometimes
when you are out in real bad weather, I don't want to say life or
death, but some dangerous situations. They're relying on you to
make the decisions and to keep them safe. And I think as a skipper,
and as an owner, you have to really take that to heart. And you
have to be careful. And you have to have your boat well prepared
and maintained. And make sure that you make the correct decisions
because there's a lot riding on it, not only the safety of your
crew, but your vessel as well.
It seemed like you and Cindy work together really well. Is it a
It is. I think
one reason we chose to tender for part of our living is the fact
that we could do it together. It suits both of our backgrounds.
We both grew up doing it. It's something the kids could step into
at a young age and do. And it's something that we can do side by
side and really are equal partners in it. She's as valuable in the
boat as I am. I couldn't do it without her. And so we do have a
great rapport and working relationship. It's a lot of fun. We get
to share a lot of experience that other people don't get to do.
And it can be stressful -- 24 hours a day, in adverse conditions,
stressful conditions when things get really busy, lack of sleep.
But again, those kinds of things are what create a very strong bond.
Why do you think that the relationship between the fishermen and
the managers is so less adversarial in Alaska than in other regions?
I think one
of the other reasons is that we work closely with the managers.
We go to a lot of meetings. We also have managers who are members
of the community. And they're our friends and our neighbors. And
we develop a personal relationship with them, and that's got to
carry over into your business relationship. So there's a respect
there. There's a friendship there. And you may differ, but you respect
the other's opinions and you agree to disagree.
reason is that we're all on the same page. We have the same goal:
the long-term health of these fisheries. Both the managers and the
fishermen, that's what we want. We may not want to go about it in
exactly the same way, but in the big picture, we want the same things
out of this. We want sustainability, we want long-term viability,
and we want good management.
And they have
incorporated us; they have involved us as an industry. When you
keep communication open, that's a big part of it. And you include
the fishermen in it and you respect their knowledge and their experience
and you try to use that as much as you can with the science. That's
A lot of the fishermen in New England say that the science is a
bunch of bull. We have seen zero of that attitude here. Is that
because here the management plans have been working? Does that have
anything to do with the mutual respect?
I think so.
I think you've hit it on the head. With the Alaska Department of
Fish and Game managing the salmon fishery since statehood in Alaska,
for the most part, at least down here in southeast, we have had
successful runs year after year. And their system of managing with
escapement and abundance seems to be working. I think that most
fishermen agree that works and so we may question some of their
decisions, but overall we think that they have had success and what
they've been doing seems to be working so we're going to give them
the benefit of the doubt.
In the halibut
fishery, it was the fishermen that formed the International Pacific
Halibut Commission. And they were the first managers and they were
incorporated in the stock assessments and so on and it evolved as
a management agency with fishermen into more of a scientific agency.
So the fishermen actually formed the commission from the start.
And I think that's a big part of it, that we have had integral involvement.
With the state
management of the salmon fisheries, again, I think the fishermen
have been very involved with the managers and the department. And
they've worked closely with us since statehood and I think we have
developed that respect and developed that rapport.