About to board a plane to Brisbane for the final stage of my Nuffield Scholarship where I will present my findings on ‘Mitigating Whale Depredation in Australia’s Toothfish Fisheries’, sponsored by the Fisheries Research & Development Corporation and Woolworths.
The presentations will be held in conjunction with the Nuffield Spring Tour in Toowoomba and I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone, particularly some of the farmers I went away with earlier in the year.
Coming soon to restaurants and retailers in Australia, Glacier 51 Toothfish. This premium, sustainable MSC certified fish is caught by Austral Fisheries in the pristine waters around Heard Island in Australia’s sub-Antarctic and is a prized favourite for chefs around the world. Keep an eye out for more news soon!
I have settled back in at home after we finally arrived back late last week. Austral Fisheries moved offices while I was away so it has taken me a few days to get settled in but I am now unpacked and set up in the new office.
The Nuffield study trip was a great opportunity for me and the contacts I met and the experience gained was once in a lifetime. It allowed me to talk with the best the world has to offer in terms of whale depredation and this will hopefully hold myself and Austral Fisheries in good stead moving forward with our toothfish operation.
To all those people with whom I met in Chile, Norway, Belgium, France, Alaska, Canada and California, I am extremely grateful for your time and hospitality and the openness in which you shared your views, research and at times your homes! Once again I would like to thank Nuffield Australia for making this possible, as well as my sponsors, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) and Woolworths for their support. Finally, a huge thank you to Austral Fisheries for having faith in me and allowing me to undertake this journey.
From here it’s back to work, and also finishing off my Nuffield report and and planning my presentation, where in October, returning scholars will present their findings to the Nuffield community in Toowoomba.
For those who have come along for the ride on their computers or iPhones, thanks for following and the encouragement along the way – I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I did!
Our last week in the States was spent in southern California and after the meetings I had a few days to enjoy some downtime and take in some sights. We went to Seaworld in San Diego and Disneyland in Anaheim (and I think I at least ticked off some ‘whale’ interest at both of these places).
I have spent the last few days in San Diego for the final scheduled meetings of my Nuffield Scholarship. We are staying down at Pacific Beach, a beautiful area with a great beach scene. I am happy this is our last stop so I can get a bit of sun before heading back into the Perth winter… However in saying that I think Perth’s winter has been nicer than most of the ‘summer’ we have seen up in the northern hemisphere.
Yesterday I met for the second time with Delphine Mathias from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography (who I initially met up in Sitka) to further discuss underwater listening devices and computer software that analyses whale acoustics.
Today I went to the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center to meet with Sarah Mesnick, a marine mammal behaviour expert who has done work with the SEASWAP sablefish team in Alaska, and Chris Jones, who leads the fisheries research for the US Antarctic program, so is familiar with depredation in toothfish fisheries. It was a really interesting catch up, especially hearing Sarah’s point of view on whale behaviour in the way they have looked into the cultural and social aspects of these lone male sperm whales learning the art of depredation, and the theories behind the time frame of initial onset, then spread, and peak/plateau of depredation.
It is thought that the combination of the cessation of whaling in 1972 (and the increase in whale numbers because of this), as well as the expanding longline fleets around the world, with the addition of certain factors in different parts of the world:
– North Atlantic: reduction in whale prey,
– North Pacific: the change in Sablefish season from an 8 day Olympic fishery to an 8 month season (increased access for the whales); and
– Southern Ocean: Numerous IUU vessels in the 90s (increases access for the whales),
were potentially the major contributing factors to the onset and spread of whale depredation in these areas. And once the whales have learnt this skill, they are not going to forget how to get such an easy feed. I believe it is vitally important not to allow the whales the opportunity to spread this knowledge/ability by giving them chances to develop this skill.
Overall it was a nice way to finish the meetings and thanks to Delphine, Sarah and Chris for making themselves available.
Tomorrow I think I will finish my time in San Diego with a trip to Seaworld and check out a Killer whale up close and personal!
Well I am closing in on the final meetings of the trip and well and truly on the home stretch now. We made our way down the Californian coast to San Francisco for the weekend and we are flying down to LA then driving down to San Diego tomorrow.
The last couple of meetings will be with two fisheries scientists that have dealt with marine mammals at NOAA and then a marine mammal acoustics oceanographer at Scripps.
We arrived in Seattle after a couple weeks break in the Canadian Rockies. Amazing place – everywhere you looked was a picture perfect view. Saw plenty of wildlife, came close to some grizzly and black bears, elk, deer and plenty of squirrels. Below is a view of Peyto Lake, just off the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park. On our way back to Vancouver we met up with fellow Australian Nuffield Scholar, Ryan Smart in Kelowna for a quick catch up and it was good to see a familiar face.
But now it’s back on the Nuffield trail. Unfortunately the connection I had here in Seattle did not work out, but this morning we visited Pike Place and saw the famous fish market where they throw the fish across the counter to get bagged up. Toothfish seems to be the most expensive fillet here between $27.99 and $29.99/lb. Sablefish around $24.99/lb.
Tomorrow we are making our way down the coast to San Diego for my final Nuffield meetings on this trip. What an amazing experience so far but I must say that I am looking forward to getting home!
The last few days I have had a couple of meetings in British Columbia. Firstly I met with Caitlin Birdsall from Vancouver Aquarium’s BC Cetacean Sighting Network, and yesterday I met with Mike Derry from FAS Seafood Producers, who organised for me to meet with marine mammal experts, John Ford and Graeme Ellis from the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
Both meetings gave me an insight into depredation in BC, which is not as big of an issue here as it is in Alaska, though is still definately happening. More so by Killer Whales than Sperm Whales though, with also some by certain types of seals.
There are 3 types of Killer Whale here in BC – resident, transient and offshore. They believe that depredation is mostly occurring from Resident Killer Whales when the Chinook Salmon are not readily available, as their natural diet is almost exclusively Salmon (72% of this being Chinook Salmon). When they are not available they look for the next best thing…
The depredation is occurring in the Sablefish and Halibut longline fisheries in northern BC as well as recreational angling in southern BC. At this point in time there is not a lot of mitigation going on, mainly just the advice of haul the hear and get out of the area, which I think is a very important thing to do – not giving the whales the chance to practice this developed skill.
Got speaking further with John Ford regarding passive acoustic listening for Killer Whale whistles and Sperm Whale clicks with long term hydrophones – potentially a first step for us in understanding when and where these whales visit our Heard Island fishery?
Thoroughly enjoyed my time here in BC and thanks to Caitlin, John and Graeme for meeting me, and especially Mike for helping me get in touch with these people and driving me up to Nanaimo.
Taking another short break from Toothfish Tales and will be back in a couple of weeks with more news from San Diego, the last stop on my Nuffield trip!
Over the past 18 months Austral Fisheries has paid particular attention to creating a recognisable, successful brand. Tweaking of our company logo, redevelopment of the company website, strategically and successfully gaining MSC certification for our Australian toothfish fisheries, monthly advertisements in the Australian newspaper magazine, and most recently, the move to a brand new office building in West Leederville.
It is with this in mind that I have strayed from my traditional posts to briefly inform you of a brand that I believe is doing all the right things here in Alaska.
The Alaskan Brewing Company, est. 1986, is based here in Juneau. They brew and bottle all their craft beer right here, refusing to expand their operation to any of the lower 49 States because the water they use comes straight from the glaciers being fed from the Juneau Icefield. Acknowledging that this will limit the growth in terms of size of the company, they are committed to a superior product and will not compromise quality for quantity.
They also have a great deal of pride and belonging to their local community. Employing locals, encouraging them to work their way up the chain. The story of the company’s inception is an interesting one, with 88 original small investors that allowed the company to get off the ground. 70 of these investors still own their shares. They also use all their own staff for their advertisements.
I haven’t even started talking about the different beers…
They have a handful of year round beers – amber, white, pale, IPA and stout. Then the seasonal summer, winter and spring ales. Then a few limited editions and ‘rough drafts’ that the brewers prepare in batches and if considered worthy, bottled or tapped to be available for certain periods. Apart from all the varieties being exceptionally good beer, each type has a simple yet powerful label. A label with a story behind it and a picture that is synonymous with Alaska. Amber Ale has a fishing vessel. White Ale a polar bear. Pale Golden Ale a glacier. Summer Ale a killer whale… The list goes on…
These simple Alaskan symbols, in addition to a great store in downtown Juneau with a huge range of merchandise, as well as being the pick up point for the Brewery tour (with free beer!) truly won me over.
Yesterday I went to NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center at Auke Bay Laboratories in Juneau. I met with the team that conducts the annual longline survey for Sablefish in the Gulf of Alaska, which is not dissimilar to the Random Stratified Trawl Survey that we conduct at Heard Island for Toothfish and Icefish stocks. Like us, they use the data gained in the survey to feed into stock assessment models which allows scientists and managers to set sustainable quotas each year.
It was helpful in gaining a better understanding of the Sablefish stocks ranging from the Bering Sea all the way down to California, both in terms of fishing method, the differences between stocks and of course the extent of whale depredation between fisheries.
A big thank you to Chris Lunsford for organising yesterday and getting the NOAA scientists available for the meeting.
Next stop Vancouver!