Author Topic: A about what we do...  (Read 905 times)

Offline rafterman

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A about what we do...
« on: September 04, 2010, 09:54:41 AM »
I didn't write it but I read it from time to time, this story. 

Robert "Bat" Batsford  1936 - 2003

When I was a little guy, I use to sit on my great grand-father's front porch and marvel at the yarns he would spin for me. Mostly about his early gold prospecting days in Northern California. He would always weave into his yarns about the day he spotted eleven different Grizzly Bears, all on one western slope of the Northern Sierras. He told me that most of the Grizzlys were hunted out because ranchers said they killed livestock. When just a few were left, everyone said Oh Well those ranchers have to save their livestock. He said to himself Oh Well, I used to like watching those Grizzly Bears. But I still have my Deer, Duck, Tulle Elk and Black Bear. I made up my mind that one day I would find one of those few remaining Grizzly Bears.

     When I was twelve years old I got a job on the Five A.M. Party Boat out of San Clemente Sport-fishing. We would catch Log Barracuda to fourteen pounds. Yellow Tail to thirty pounds. Barn-door Halibut to forty pounds. Black Sea Bass to five hundred pounds, with some Blue Fin Tuna thrown in. Around July if we heard of a bite, on the outside, we would run two or three hour's off-shore, and get some respectable scores of my beloved Albacore. In the winter when the landing was closed, we would take our skiffs, and yo-yo all the forty to sixty-five pound White Sea Bass a guy could ever want to catch. The fishing was great, and I worked the boats till I was eighteen. I joined the Navy and was stationed in San Diego. I met and married my Wife Diane, when I was twenty. We made our home in my home town of San Clemente. It was hard making it on Navy pay, so to make things a little easier, I use to dive for our dinner. Those dinners consisted of mainly Abalone and Lobster, which were still abundant. Even when I was in the Navy I still worked that Five A.M. Party Boat out of San Clemente Sport-fishing almost every week end.

     A year later because of the population explosion, or pollution, or what-ever, my Albacore stopped coming into the range of the Five A.M.. Party Boat. Every-one said Oh Well you cant stop progress. I said to myself Oh-Well I still have my Barracuda, Yellow-Tail, Black Sea Bass, Blue Fin Tuna, Halibut, and great winter White Sea Bass fishing. I can still Catch my Albacore, I just have to go a lot further off-shore. About a year later, every-body with a skiff started Commercial Abalone Diving, and running strings of Lobster Pots. Then the Abs, and Bugs started getting scarce. Divers discovered S.C.U.B.A. Gear and started market shooting Black Sea Bass, and they disappeared. Purse-sein`ers ran out of Blue Fin Tuna to wrap. They started illegally wrapping the Yellow Tail, and Barracuda. There numbers started to decline. Then the Sein`ers along with the Gill netters found the White Sea Bass, and those large winter schools disappeared. Between the Set Lines, and the Market Divers, the Halibut took a dive. Every-one said Oh Well those fishermen have to make a living. I said to my-self Oh Well I can still catch some of these fish, there just a heck of a lot smaller now.

     In those years, Diane, and I would take trips whenever we could to the San Bernardino Mountains, or to her Grand-father Ray's place just outside Yosemite. I would keep my eyes peeled for a Grizzly Bear, I never had any success. The next year my Great Grand-father passed away, and I remember looking up at the California State flag, and thinking Oh Well that Bear on that Flag must of meant something.

     Late summer the next year, because of a job commitment, we had to move up to the San Francisco Bay Area. I was crushed, I thought my salt-water fishing days were over. We drove up a little road called Highway One. It was a remote little road, so I kept looking for my long sought after Grizzly Bear, but I didn't spot one. North of Monterey we came to a little harbor town called Moss Landing. The docks were filled with boats that sure looked like Albacore Bait and Jig Boats. I thought this couldn't be, we're in Northern California. On the docks I found a weathered old fish buyer there by the name of Tom something. I asked Tom if the boats were indeed Albacore Bait and Jig boats? Tom said they sure were. Tom told me of wide open bites of twenty to sixty pound Albacore from eight to sixty miles off-shore. Also of the Big Eye and Blue Fin Tuna, along with Broad-Bill on the same grounds. He also told me about runs of Halibut up to sixty pounds. The big runs of large White Sea Bass. The deep reefs full of huge Rock Fish. King and Silver Salmon, Steelhead, and something called a Stripped Bass up there in San Francisco Bay. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. After that I felt really lucky, so I thought I would push it. I asked Tom if there was any Grizzly Bears in the surrounding area? Tom replied " no that he had never seen a Grizzly Bear in the wild ". I thought Oh Well nothings perfect.

     The next year I bought a twenty-four foot off-shore boat. For a lot of years fishing was great, for Diane, the Kids, and I. Then things started to happen. The South-Land needed water or so we were told. The State built the California Aqua-duct, and the San Joaquin River started running backwards at high tide. Along with that and new Delta based power plant turbines. The Stripped Bass started going under. Trammel Nets started going over the sterns of boats up and down the North Coast. Drag Boats started Dragging the deeper off-shore areas. Between the two fleets, those runs of twenty to sixty pounds Halibut from Monterey to Tomalas, Bay became only a memory. Shackles of Drift Gill Nets were dumped on off-shore reefs, and those huge Rock Fish vanished. Everyone said Oh Well, those guys with all that money invested in those big boats, have to make a living, and you cant stop progress. I said to myself Oh Well I guess their right. I still have my beloved Albacore, Big eye and Blue Fin Tuna, Broad Bill, Steelhead, King and Silver Salmon. In my travels around the more Remote areas of the State. I keep my eyes open for a Grizzly Bear, without a heck of a lot of luck.

     A few years later a bunch of us got together and formed the San Francisco Bay Area Tuna Club. A year after that we learned about a thing called a High Seas Drift Gill Net. We found out that National Marine Fisheries had done an in-depth study and issued a report. About the harm that the High Sea Drift Net Fleet has done to the Pacific Fishery. We asked for that report and we were told that the report was not cleared for public disclosure. When we heard that we thought oh my God here we go again. We have found these nets are thirty miles long, and set to a depth of one to two hundred feet deep. The Fleet is three-thousand ships strong. That amounts to thirty-thousand miles of net, set every day off our coast. A monofilament fence that catches every living thing, that comes up our sea canyons from outside our ecology zones. This fleet is operated first by Taiwan, then Korea, and then Japan. In the last five years they have accomplished the following. We haven't seen a Broad Bill Sword Fish in two years. This year we know of only two Big Eye Tuna caught. Seventy-five percent of all river caught Salmon over ten pounds, have net burns. Silver Salmon Runs in California Rivers and Streams are almost non-existing. The Sacramento Run of King Salmon is now listed as an endangered species. Steelhead Runs are way down. What hurts me the most, is my wide open twenty to sixty pound Albacore bites are gone. Albacore now are spotty and far off-shore, and in the seven to ten pound class. Since we know an Albacore doesn't spawn until they are over seventy pounds, what the heck is going to spawn next year?

     The Tuna Canning Industry buys Albacore from this high sea's fleet, but Oh Well we have that little Dolphin Safe Emblem on the can. That label on those cans of Albacore is a joke. Those nets kill more Porpoise, Dolphin, Sea Turtles, and Whales then Purse Sein`ers ever thought of doing.

     Last year I was running a large construction project in Southern California, and I would fly home every Friday at mid day. The first of the week in early November, I received a phone call from Diane. She informed me that it was raining on the North Coast, and then invited me to a week-end of Steelhead fishing, I gladly accepted. I fell asleep that night dreaming of the Gualala River with its holes choked with steelhead. The Garcia with its ripples full of tailing Silver Salmon. Even the Russian with the thirty to forty fat Sea Lions, that I would cuss every year as they fed on the Salmon and Steelhead in the tidal bore. We'd watch them shoot out of the water with a fish in their jaws.

     I got home Friday afternoon, and we loaded the car. We left for the North Coast very early Saturday Morning. We checked the Gualala, no fish. We checked the Garcia, no fish. We checked with the proprietor of the Gualala Sports-Shop, and he told us they couldn't figure what was wrong. Game Wardens had walked both rivers, and hadn't spotted a single fish. We said Oh Well, and did the tourist thing. We drove around the North Coast. We spotted six displaced Central Coast Abalone Boats, up there diving for ninety cent apices Sea Urchins, in waters that have never been open to commercial Abalone diving. Oh Well, those Divers have to make a living. Under the water were no one can see what they're doing, only trouble is they kept stubbing their toes on thousand of pesky thirty-four dollar apices Abalone. Abalone retail sales are about ten times the amounts of the legal commercial take. I wonder were the excess comes from?

     Diane said, lets drive south and watch the Sea Lions feed in the tidal bore at the Russian river. As we drove south I told my wife, you know Hon, I've lived in California all my life. I've looked and I've looked, I even kept my eyes peeled on this trip, but I still haven't found my wild Grizzly Bear. We got to the Russian River, the mouth was wide open, the Sea Lions were there about thirty of them. We watched for over an hour. Diane said something's wrong, I haven't seen a Seal catch a Salmon or steelhead. I thought and then it hit me, stupid Sea Lions, they didn't know about the High Sea Drift Nets catching all the tuna, Broadbill, Salmon and Steelhead before they get to our in-shore fisheries.

     I am sixty years old now, a Grand-father seven times over. I keep having a reoccurring nightmare of my Grand-children saying we haven't the fishing Grandpa use to have. But Oh Well we still have our Color Televisions, our Computer Games, and our Pizza Parlors. Don't be like me, and spend your whole life looking for something that isn't there because of the Oh Wells. And please, please, people, wake up, and realize like I just have. THERE ARE NO GRIZZLY BEARS LEFT IN CALIFORNIA.

     I wrote this story, three years ago. In the last three years' things have started to improve. The United Nations enacted a ban on fishing High Seas Drift Nets in some areas of the Pacific Ocean. This year for the first time we are seeing a great improvement in our Albacore Fishery. With a hefty investment of Moines, from both Commercial, and Sport Fisherman The California Fish and Game are yearly raising, thirty million King Salmon, to a year old before release. We have seen a greatly improved King Salmon Fishery, in the last two years. Fisher People will have to keep a close watch on water quality, and improved water sheds, for this to continue. A new White Sea Bass Hatchery has been opened in Carlsbad California. We could use one or two in Northern California. This year the White Sea Bass Fishery has improved, along the South Coast. The No Take Law on Black Sea Bass has helped this species come back. The Size Limit on Barracuda has Helped them come back. The voluntary release of Large Calico Bass by Southern California Anglers, has helped them come back. Restriction on Gill and Trammel Nets, have greatly improved the Halibut Fishery.

     A lot of work is still left to be done. Our Silver Salmon will probably go on the Endangered Species List, this year. That problem is due to clear cutting of timber in vital water shed areas. Along with the lack of water flow and water quality controls in the same areas. The Moines collected from now canceled Stripped Bass Stamp, has to be released for that Hatchery, and the Stamp re-activated. We need a harder look at the Commercial take of Blue Fin Tuna, and Yellow-Tail by Net Fishing. A closer look at the tonnage of Squid, and Herring Harvested. Stronger enforcement of Commercial Abalone Closure areas.

     In the next few years, you'll hear a lot of rhetoric about environmental laws affecting American jobs. That simply is not true. Let me give you an example, of one such argument. The Lumber Industry likes to say "If we cant clear cut we cant harvest and all those American Jobs will be lost." The facts are, that American Companies pay a few American Workers to cut the tree's, and a few more to transport them, to different West-coast ports. Our guys aren't even allowed to skin the bark of the tree's. Then the timber is put on Foreign Ships, and shipped to Foreign Mills. The Mills were the largest employer in the Timber Industry. The Timber Industry closed most of the American Mills. The Timber Industry wants to save American Jobs? Why don't they reopen our American Mills? Now that would create a lot of American Jobs.

     The simple truth is, we can no longer allow our Rivers and Streams to become mud holes. We can no longer allow our Oceans to become sewer's, and the Air we breathe to become more polluted. All of us must be aware of bureaucrats, that favor their pocket book, and political position, over our Outdoors, and Wild-Life. We all must strongly oppose any-one that would undo our environmental protection laws. I understand that now, they are trying to pass a Bill that would allow them to sell off, some our Hunting and Fishing lands. That land was to be held in public trust for future generations. In Washington, they are making moves to try to do away with the Endangered Species Act, and our Clean Water Legislation. All of us that have a love for our Great American Out-Doors, cannot allow this to happen. I would sure like to know something was left for our Sons and Daughters, our Grand Children, and their Children. Something besides Color Televisions, Computer Games, and Pizza Parlors. I've had enough of the Oh Well's, how about you?

     All in all, the last few years have seen a great deal of improvement. You know, I had all but given up looking around California for my long sought after Grizzly Bear. If things continue to improve, I think, I may go out and take a look around.

Thank for your time to listen to my story and concerns.

Bat Batsford
Do what You want to do…


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