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.

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