Seattle trawler claims that “new behavior” by orcas resulted in bycatch deaths is false

NPFMC reports cite killer whales feeding on discarded trawl bycatch in 2016, 2017 and earlier.

by | October 13, 2023

NPFMC report from 2019 proves they are lying

Media reports in print, radio and on television continue to circulate about Bering Sea trawlers take of nine orcas (killer whales) as bycatch between May and September of 2023. One more was caught during a NOAA longline survey conducted by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center over the summer.

The trawl culprits were the fleet of 19 Seattle-based bottom draggers called the Amendment 80 fleet that target mostly flatfish in the Bering Sea. The fleet also scoops up millions of pounds of halibut as bycatch each year, more than any other fishing sector, and is required by law to dump the fish overboard. That acts as a dinner bell for the whales.

The trawlers’ trade group, Groundfish Forum, has repeatedly told every media outlet that in 2023 their captains “reported an increase in the number of killer whales where they appear to be feeding in front of the nets while fishing.”

“This new behavior has not been previously documented and marine mammal scientists are not sure why this change has occurred.”

statement by groundfish forum

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

A 2019 report by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) proves that the Groundfish Forum is not telling the truth.

Scientists from NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle revealed that killer whales were feeding on halibut discarded from the A80 boats starting in 2016 – and even earlier in other flatfish fisheries.

Below is the full statement by the Groundfish Forum

Note how they downplay the bycatch of killer whales by pointing out that “These killer whales are not listed as threated (sic) or endangered” species. (So it’s no big deal!)

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.

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