The “Donut Hole”

The “Donut Hole” was the disastrous collapse of the Pollock population in the Aleutian Basin of the Bering Sea. The collapse occurred in a location the “Donut Hole”, coined by fisherman because it was supposed to be an endless resource goldmine for fishing was fished past its threshold. A critical error was made, the fish caught inside the area decided calculated fish populations and then this data which was often inaccurate was used to calculate fish stocks. One of the problems I see with this technique is that fish caught by the international boats did not report their numbers.The other being that this is such a small sample area set to decide the health of a fishery. Also during this time period there was a boom in available more advanced technology. This technology allowed the fisherman to see the fish’s location with new radars. Another advancement was deep sea trawlers that allowed the fisherman to fish deeper and stay at sea for more days at a time. At the time there were no studies on the effects of these new deep trawling systems but they were destroying sea floors. In particular import systems such as coral, an ecosystem that supports anywhere from 800- 4000 species. The combined harvest during this time was in the billions, the fisherman ignorantly believed the fish would be at their disposal forever, a first come, first serve fishery. The pollock population dropped by 98 percent, an obviously not sustainable drop. In 1955 a decision was made by biologists, the fishery had been overfished in international waters (Russia, USSR) and Alaska, the fishery was forced to close. The “Central Bering Treaty” was created and signed in hopes of repairing the irreparable damage. I see parallels in the tragedy of this story and the northern cod collapse. In both scenarios the fisherman were naive to the concept of overfishing and ultimately lost their fishery, way of life and economy.

Due November 11 by 11:59pm

I was late posting this prompt, so you have until Wednesday before midnight and NO responses are required (but feel free….extra effort can be rewarded)

In the current section of Billion Dollar Fish the author tells the lamentable tale of the rise and fall of the Donut Hole.  In a short post (ca. 300 words) , describe as you understand it the factors that led to the collapse in the Donut Hole, making sure to make clear you understand what the Donut Hole is, why it is important in the story of Alaska pollock, and perhaps how it might related to the fall of northern cod. 



Due November 3 by 11:59pm

Figure 4.2 from Billion Dollar Fish on page 70.

As we know from the history of northern cod, the WWII era brought about massive change to global fisheries. Technology came, as did systematic record keeping by the FAO. We also know that 1976 was a big year with the passing of the Law of the Sea.

In a short post of at least 250 words describe the changes that occurred beginning in 1976 for the Alaska pollock fishery. In your response make clear you understand  the legislation that gave exclusive economic rights to countries 200 miles from their shores (related to Law of Sea but not same law) and what the heck a joint venture fishery is! Said another way, you want to be able to explain in your own words the patterns of catch that are described in Figure 4.2 on page 70. 

As usual respond to posts by the next day before midnight.



Due October 27 by 11:59pm

Now that you have finished reading Four Fish it is time to reflect on and apply some of its messages.

Imagine you are talking to your grandmother who lives in the middle of the United States and shops at a relatively high-end grocery store that has an extensive ‘seafood counter’ with options from around the world and across the trophic scale (i.e., from mussels to marlin).

Your grandmother is a conscious consumer and wants to make healthy and environmentally informed choices for what she buys. What would you say about what you have learned about seafood in FISH 110, including your reading of Four Fish, that helps your grandma make an informed purchase? For example, consider her options of buying  wild or farmed fish? Seafood from the USA or from overseas? High trophic levels or closer to the base of food webs?  

Respond to your grandma (and the class) with at least 250 words by 11:59pm on October 27 and as usual, respond to at least two of your fellow students’ posts by 11:59pm on the 28th.


Homework due Thursday October 22

Before class on Thursday complete the following:

  1. Watch the documentary ‘Alaska Gold’about the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol BayLetters: Alaska Gold, over crowded salmon waters
  2. Watch my friend Jason Ching’s
    1. Pick 10 of the following Questions and turn in as a reply to this post:
      1. Briefly summarize the crux of the ecological issue regarding the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay


      1. From Alaska Gold and Jason Ching’s Above Iliamna, what words might you use to describe the biological and physical setting in Bristol Bay? Do any of these words create challenges when considering the proposed Pebble Mine?



      1. What aspects of the specific form of mining and specific mineral being extracted is cause for concern for some scientist and environmental organizations?



      1. What aspects of the proposed specific location of the mine may reduce the potential impact and what may aggravate the effects?



      1. Which biological traits of sockeye salmon may make them resilient to these changes and which may make them sensitive?


      1. Briefly describe how Bristol Bay ranks in terms of wild salmon production compares to other locations



      1. Who owns the land proposed to be mined?


      1. Who is the Pebble Partnership?



      1. What types of streams would be directly impacted by the mine activity and why do they matter in the life history of salmon?


      1. What needs to be proven in Alaska in order for streams to have the highest level of protection from development?



      1. How long is it estimated that the mine will operate, how long would the foot print of the mine remain?



      1. Briefly describe the concerns by local residents that rely on subsistence resources and whether there is 100% agreement or debate? What things did you hear from the two ‘sides’ of the debate?



      1. According to McEvoy, the Pebble Mine project is likely or unlikely to be sustainable? What about according to Solow?



      1. Over 50% of the returning salmon to Bristol Bay are sustainably caught each year. Describe the logic of intentionally harvesting a population at about 50% of its unfished state in order to maximize catch into the future.


      1. If a person is opposed to the Pebble Mine and drives a hybrid vehicle (or anything that uses copper) does it make them a hypocrite? Why or why not?



      1. Describe how the Environmental Protection Agency became involved, what they found in their watershed assessment, and the response by different communities


      1. Under what federal Act would the EPA potential block construction of Pebble Mine?


FTT #6

The collapse of the Newfoundland cod industry should have taught us two things: that fishing should be regulated and that data can be misleading. The largest amount of the nails in the coffin of this fisheries is that the fishermen weren’t properly managed. When people first settled along the Eastern shores of North America, it was said that you could walk across the water on the backs of cod. Within a few hundred years, there were boats from all over the world fishing these cod, mostly off the coast of Newfoundland. These fisheries were poorly managed, especially with the technological advancements including freezer boats and sonar. The new technology made it easier to stay out longer without losing the fish and the sonar made finding fish easier than ever. Until the sixties, international fishing was allowed in Newfoundland and that was the worst decision because the international boats outnumbered the Canadian fleet. After these boats were no longer welcomed in Canadian waters, the damage had already been done. It took another 30 years to almost completely wipe out the cod with just local fishing. Fisheries managers were confusing data. Sometimes they were seeing hauls that said it was the end of the world for these cod, and other times is appeared that the cod were making a comeback somehow. Something that wasn’t factored for was the when and where. The larger hauls that the managers were seeing were happening during breeding season, when cod tend to mass together in huge schools that not only made them easier to find and catch, but also made the cod numbers seem much larger than they were. By the year 1992, cod had just about vanished from the waters off of Newfoundland. In conclusion, the two major things we should have learnt from the collapse of the cod fisheries in Newfoundland is that the fishermen should be managed and that the data should always be looked at with respect to factors that may not be openly represented on a graph. You could say that all of this is the manager’s faults, and you wouldn’t be wrong in any way.

FTT due 11:59 pm October 13

After learning the heartbreaking story of northern cod of Newfoundland, it is time to reflect on what you think are the two single most important lessons from this disaster. In approximately 250-300 words, tell us what you think those two lessons are, and why they are so important. Push yourself to go beyond the obvious, such as “we need to learn to not catch so many fish.” While that is true, that is not terribly helpful. Which lessons can be applied to help us avoid this type of collapse again in the future?

As per usual, respond to at least two (2) posts by your peers by Wednesday at 11:59 pm by clicking the ‘reply’ button to a student’s post

Expect to see an essay question on northern cod on Thursday’s exam.


Fish and Fisheries in a Changing World