TRANSCRIPT - Edwin Fuglvog
Fuglvog is a commercial fisherman in Petersburg, Alaska, and
the father of Arne Fuglvog.
Looking at all of this technology, it would seem that in the time
that you have passed a lot of changes have taken place. Has the
technology changed the way you fish?
When I first
started with my dad all we had was a compass and a lead line for
measuring how deep it was. We would have a long, stainless steel
line with a heavy weight on it, with a little dab of butter on the
weight, and we'd drop down to the bottom and when it reached the
bottom, we'd pull it back again and there were marks on the line
that would tell us that we were able to tell how deep it was. And
then we would haul the weight up again, there would be maybe sand,
which would indicate sandy bottom, that got attached to the butter
or lard or whatever we happened to use. If there was nothing on
there, that would indicate a rocky bottom.
And so in the
late '40s we installed an electric philometer on the boat and this
way we were able to measure the bottom continuously as we were moving
along. This enabled us to set the gear on a more desirable bottom
and depth, and then as time went along, we got a radar and eventually
a Loran gear. Some surplus gear became available to us through the
We were using
that for a number of years and that would put us on, say for example,
out in the Gulf of Alaska, this would give us a position say, within
100 yards of where we happened to be. And this enabled us to get
to the exact spot that we wanted to be. And then as time went along
we went from Loran to GPS, and of course, this is even more accurate
and it made it easy for everyone to get to the favorite fishing
spots or fishing holes that they have developed over the years.
It's fairly simple to operate. Anybody can get acquainted with the
equipment and use it to their advantage. It works out quite well.
But prior to
that, you had all these secret grounds and you didn't want to let
anybody know where they were at and these were your best fishing
spots. But then as time went along, with all this technology, it's
no secret any longer. A person could hold a hand - held GPS in their
pocket and if they get onto good fishing, they can get on their
GPS and figure out their latitude and longitude and write it down
for future reference. It made it a lot easier for everybody to get
out there on the best grounds, which was fine. It makes it easier
for a person starting out to do well right off the bat. It works
to everybody's advantage.
A lot of the fisheries all over the world are not doing well. One
of the recurring themes we've heard is that because of all of the
technological advances, it's tipped the scale. The fish have fewer
places to hide. There's also the notion that there are too many
boats chasing too few fish. Do you think that's the case?
It has to be properly managed. You can have a huge fishing fleet
but that fleet would be micro-managed. They would be fishing a few
short days instead of a few months.
And when you
have a huge fleet like that, it's going to be difficult for all
of them to survive. And that's primarily why they have gone to limited
entry in some of these fisheries so they can manage this fishery.
For example, salmon fishing in the state of Alaska has been in effect
for probably 25 years.
And it's worked
out quite well. They've been able to manage the resource and get
a handle on it. And they've kind of restricted the number of permits
so you know how many units of gear you are going to have out there
And I think
all of the fisheries are eventually going to have to come to this
if they want to maintain or get control of the resource. We've seen
how some of these fisheries have developed, prior to limiting the
number of vessels that can participate. It hasn't been a very good
situation. It's been hard to manage and hard for the fishermen to
participate and it's caused a lot of problems.
Pacific halibut fishery is used as an example of something that's
positive. But it's important for the people, who say that Alaska's
resources are so abundant that they don't need management, to realize
that the halibut fishery was once overfished.
Well, when they
started the Halibut Commission (I believe this was started in the
20's), it was kind of a necessity that developed from overfishing
in some areas. Between the United States and Canada they formed
this International Halibut Commission, which manages the halibut
resource both in British Colombia and in the state of Alaska. And
at the time it was a 3-mile limit, so this included all the waters
on the continental shelf where halibut are found. And fishing organizations
in Canada - the vessel owners and the fishermen's unions - participated
in the management of it.
Commission would make recommendations as to the quota for the next
year, based on surveys and fishermen's log books and things of that
nature, and then the fishermen and the commission would meet once
a year to discuss these proposals. And as a result of these meetings
they were able to establish halibut quotas and opening dates and
so on and it's worked out extremely well. And this same commission
has been in business for over 70 years and the halibut fishery has
been operating at a sustained level all these years.
The quotas will
go up and down, for various reasons. Maybe there's poor survival
of some of the young halibut some of the years and then there are
good survival rates down the road a few years - they'll show up
and then they'll increase the quota a little bit. But had not this
halibut fishery been regulated, the stocks would probably have been
depleted where you would no longer have a fishery. And because of
the way it has been managed, we have these halibut fishing fleets
that are operating successfully in all the ports all the way up
and down the west coast.
And so I can
only say good things about the way it is being managed and the fishermen
have always been on the conservative side of management. If they
feel that this quota might be kind of high for this year, based
on what we've seen the last year or two, we're not getting all that
great fishing, we may recommend setting a lower quota, just to kind
of keep the money in the bank, until a further period down the road
when we can afford to increase the quota a little bit. And it's
worked out quite well.
commission isn't going to say, "You guys don't know what you're
talking about; we're the scientists, we know how to manage this
resource." But they recognize our input and the validity of it and
so they give us a lot of credibility towards setting quotas and
seasons, and we're actively involved in the management of it.
Would you say that the halibut fishery is an example of a poor fishery
that can be turned around?
fishery hasn't been depleted to the point where there aren't any
left. If we have a fishery that's on the verge of collapse, where
the stocks are down so low that the fishing fleets can no longer
be successful at what they're doing, then they are going to have
to take a look at it and say, we have to do something. We are going
to have to shut this fishery down, or reduce the quotas to a level
where the quotas can rebuild. And this could take years and years.
And they are going to have to move onto something else during this
time, or otherwise, just get out of the fishery and sell their boats
and do whatever they have to do.
There is an
end to a resource. There's no unlimited supply of fish. You keep
nibbling away at it, eventually you're going to get 'em all, or
almost all of them. So you've got to be very careful.
Do you think fishing has a future here in Petersburg?
I remember 50
years ago when I was fishing with my dad, one of the crew members
told me, this fishing business, I don't think you should go into
it; it doesn't look very good. And it was kind of slow fishing there
for awhile and I thought it might not be a bad idea to go off to
school and get an education as a backup but I think there will always
be a fishery if we continue to manage it the way we have been managing
it and not let it get away from us.
We had quite
a few years of good crab fishing in this area. And stocks are fairly
low right now and so the effort on them has been reduced considerably
due to very low quotas that they've set for some of these crab species.
And it's going to take quite a while for these crab to return to
historical levels, which were fairly high a number of years ago.
They may not return in my lifetime, but someday they will.
Do you see with your son, or with other fishermen, a new breed of
fishermen that has developed, that is aware that there are limits
like those you've just stated?
Well, a lot
of the younger fishermen that we have in our fleet today started
in the fishery at the time they started limiting the number of participants
that could partake in the fishery, for example the salmon fishery.
So many of them have already bought into the fishery and have paid
a price to get into it, compared to those of, say my age, who have
received the permits because of our participation. And so they are
already schooled in what it takes to get into the fishery. You can't
just walk into Petersburg and go and get a fishing permit and go
out and fish for halibut or salmon without paying a price.
And so, those
that want to get into the fishery are those that are very serious
about it. Start out as a crewmember and work for many years and
they really have to start saving their money. And so that when the
time comes when they want to get into the fishery, they can go to
the bank, they have a little bit of collateral or something that
they can use to finance loans for buying permits and boats. Young
fellas are doing this all of the time. And it's working. And they're
making it big. It's a way of life. This is the way it's done nowadays,
and they understand that. And it's working out.
A lot of individuals,
such as myself, we're in the twilight of our fishing career and
so we're going to have to sell our permits or hand them down to
the next generation, or however it works out, and phase ourselves
out. But the new wave, as you say, they understand what it takes
to get into the fishery. And there hasn't been any huge protest
about that at all. It's accepted. And it's working.
Can you offer any words of wisdom for the newcomers to the fishing
If you're seriously
considering making fishing your career I think you have to try and
get involved in as many fisheries as you can as a crewmember and
get the experience. And start saving your money and mapping out
a path that you want to take. And set some goals for yourself. Work
towards that. You just work hard at it and you'll make it. That's
my advice for someone who wants to get into it.
It must have been simpler back when you got started. Given the way
the situation is now, would you do it over again?
If I knew then
what I know now, of course I would. When I started fifty years ago,
if it led to where I am at now, yeah, I'd do it again.
What was the hardest part of making a living the way you've made
I suppose the
difficult parts would be the concern you have for your crewmembers
and your vessel and when you get into predicaments such as bad weather
and you have to think about what the consequences could be if you
were to use reckless judgment or make foolish decisions, or bad
part of the fishery is to see what happens to people that get into
a predicament that they are not prepared to get into, which is kind
of the sad part of the fishery, because when we were going through
this derby fishery here a few years back, we were losing boats and
we were losing people in the fishery. This was really a sad, sad
situation. I think that is hard to take.
And it is not
only of the fishery that we have been involved in, but it's fishery
all up and down the coast, from Mexico up to the Bering Sea. It
can be grueling; it can be dangerous. It's very risky. So you have
to use good judgment and try to make good decisions, which are not
going to put anybody in jeopardy. I think this is uppermost in my
mind when I am involved in fishing, in running a boat.
Did IFQs eliminate the derby aspect of things and improve the state
of things in the fishery?
I believe it
has improved the fishery. It's made a number of differences as far
as I'm concerned. One primarily, is the safety aspect of it. It
has virtually eliminated the loss of life and the loss of boats.
Because now fishermen can make an intelligent decision as to when
they should go out. If they get a bad weather report, if there are
storm warnings or gale warnings, they are not going to go fishing,
whereas in the derby days, you just about had to go and you put
everybody in their vessels at risk, particularly the smaller vessels.
And you know,
for the consumer it's a better product. They get fresh fish over
a longer period of time, which is something they hadn't been able
to get in the past. And I think behind the ruling is the fact that
the consumer is the one that is going to benefit and this was very
influential when they made the final decision to go ahead with IFQs.