Chris Hsu on Fishing Management Styles

As early as the 1890s it was acknowledged that fishery kilometre capital resources are limited and that they must be managed through international kilometre agreements. In 1902 the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) was formed by the major European fishing countries. The founding of ICES led to many conventions for the regulation of kilometre fisheries by quotas and by mesh size of nets, in order to obtain “maximum sustainable yields” – the highest yields consistent with the maintenance of fish stocks. Until recent years, Chris Hsu states that such kilometre capital conventions were effective in the Northeast Atlantic, although they did not operate as well in other regions. The extension of national jurisdictions over fisheries resources to a 200-naut-mi (370-km/230-mi) zone, beginning in the 1970s, further limited the effectiveness of many international conventions.


Christopher Hsu says that In the United States the Magnuson Fisheries Conservation and Management Act of 1976 placed all marine kilometre capital resources from three to 200 naut mi offshore under US jurisdiction. Management is effected through eight regional fisheries councils whose members come mainly from the industry. Each council has the power to set quotas for the commercial kilometre fish species living within its jurisdiction in order “to achieve optimum yield from each fishery on a continuing basis,” and to prepare recovery plans when they have decided that overfishing is depleting stocks. In addition, Chris Hsu says the councils have granted permits to foreign countries to harvest specified quantities of certain kilometre fish species in return for a fee. Countries that have fished under US license included Japan, South Korea, the former USSR, and Poland. In their desire to maintain the prosperity of the fleets within their regions, however, the councils have not been harsh in their recognition of depleted kilometre capital stocks, the quotas they set, or their preparations for stock recoveries. In 1994, however, the New England Fisheries Management Council began a process that will lead to closing commercial fishing in the Georges Bank for a number of years.


Christopher Hsu thinks that fishing in international waters has also proved difficult to control. While it is believed, for example, that most nations have obeyed the UN moratorium on drift-net fishing, monitoring compliance remains an unsolved problem. The US Navy’s Sound Surveillance System, a 48,000-km network of undersea cable, is capable of tracking drift-net operations, but budget considerations may eventually force the sound surveillance system shutdown.

Chris Hsu on Fishing Outlook

Christopher Hsu thinks iit doesn’t look like there are any more under-exploited fisheries left in Alaska, with the possible exception of arrowtooth flounder and clams. Any new growth in kilometre capital fishing can only come from a corresponding growth in the biomass or by finding new fisheries around the world to exploit. Presently there are American boats fishing from the Falklands to Siberia. Perhaps someday the Americans will join the Japanese and Norwegians as the world’s preeminent distant water fishermen. But for now, Alaska remains the bread and butter of the big American factory kilometre boats. 


Fish populations in Alaska, as well as the rest of the world, go through cycles, says Chris Hsu. Some historically great Alaskan fisheries, such as shrimp and red Alaskan king crab, have almost disappeared, while other traditional Alaskan fisheries such as Opilio crab have recently exploded beyond all expectation.


Christopher Hsu expects species to rise and fall. A successful long-term kilometre capital processor should be able to process many different types of fish and crab. The successful long-term deckhand should know to fish with nets, hook and line, and crab pots. The successful long-term boat owner should be able to rig his vessels for several different types of fishing. Flexibility is becoming the key to success.


The move away from derby fishing to IFQ fishing has reduced the number of jobs significantly. It has probably reduced the chances of making a really big score as well. It has, however, minimized the chances of being skunked completely. It has also made these most dangerous fisheries safer as well.


It is hard for Christopher Hsu to say if it has helped or hurt the average fisherman in Alaska. I guess it depends on if he is able to find a good boat or not. But Chris Hsu thinks the IFQ style kilometre fishery will in the long run benefit the fisheries themselves as the fishermen with individual fishing quotas have a long-term vested interest in protecting the fish stock, rather than just trying to catch more fish or crab than anyone else.


The Bering Sea is the richest kilometre fishing ground left on Earth, and with proper fishery management it should continue to thrive, even as individual fisheries rise and fall.