Modern Marvels - Commercial Fishing   View more episodes

Aired at 11:00 AM on Friday, Jul 09, 2010 (7/9/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


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00:00:46,,chcht To The Max - Commercial ,, Iial ,, >> NARRATOR: We now return to "Commercial Fishing" onModern Marvels.
00:02:58The Port of Gloucester,, Massachusetts, is the oldest fishing harbor in the United States.
00:03:04Its seafarers have fished the far-off waters of Georges Bank and the Grand Banks since the 17Th century-- many never returned.
00:03:15Overlooking the harbor is the fisherman's memorial, a tribute naming thousands of local fishermen who have lost their lives at sea, including the six men who perished in the infamous Halloween gale in 1991.
00:03:30Their story was told in the book and the 2000 feature film,The Perfect Storm.
00:03:37Linda Greenlaw was on the outer edge of "the perfect storm," skippering theHannah Boden, the Andrea Gail'ssister ship.
00:03:44>> LINDA GREENLAW: We had 70 knots of wind for a couple of days. It was bad.
00:03:47It was not life-threatening, but Iwasvery frightened.
00:03:50Listening to the boats west of me-- these are guys who have been fishing all their lives.
00:03:54>> NARRATOR: TheAndrea Gail eventually succumbed to the 100- foot seas and 90-knot winds.
00:04:01>> GREENLAW: Commercial fishing is always on the top of the list of the most dangerous professions, and a lot of that,,, of course, is due to bad weather.
00:04:10>> CHRIS GLASS: Commercial fishing is one of the toughest professions on the face of the planet.
00:04:14Um, these are individuals who go hundreds of miles away.
00:04:19They work around the clock, they operate under, uh, changing conditions, often under horrendous, uh, conditions, and they really are, I guess, the last of the, of the true hunter- gatherers.
00:04:34>> NARRATOR: Far from shore, smaller boats are more susceptible to nature's fury.,, In fishing ports up and down the East Coast, many of these small boats are called "draggers." Draggers are bottom trawlers-- vessels that tow a large net along the ocean bottom, targeting groundfish such as haddock, cod, whiting and flounder.
00:05:00Today's bottom trawler pulls the funnel-shaped net at a three- knot average speed.
00:05:06Guiding the net on either end are otter doors.
00:05:09These heavy, metal devices force the net to the bottom and,, provide hydrodynamic spread to keep the net's mouth open.
00:05:18Floats positioned along the headline keep the net open vertically while a weighted ground rope and rubber rollers keep the net in contact with the ocean bottom.
00:05:29As fish are overtaken, they're guided into the collection area known as the cod-end.
00:05:36While popular, bottom trawlers are outnumbered by vessels called "purse seiners." Seiners target high- and mid- water schooling fish such as,, tuna, salmon and mackerel.
00:05:50In past centuries, seine nets were deployed from beaches.
00:05:55Fishermen rowed the long nets in a semicircle around a school of fish, while horses pulled the catch to shore.
00:06:06Today's open-ocean purse seines can reach a length of one mile.
00:06:11The net is motored around a large school of fish.
00:06:17When the circle is complete, the,, bottom purseline is pulled in, like the strings of a woman's purse, trapping the fish.
00:06:28The net is tightened and the fish are removed and brought aboard for cold storage.
00:06:38Purse seining and bottom dragging are highly effective, but, at the same time, pose environmental threats.
00:06:45The primary threat is known as "by-catch." >> GLASS: If you put a net into the water, you're going to catch a number of things that you are not targeting, and then those are-are thrown back into th-the water at the, at the end of the tow, and globally, we waste some 30% of everything that's caught, uh, that is not targeted.
00:07:08>> NARRATOR: In Eastern Pacific waters, by the 1960s, vast numbers of by-catch dolphins were dying in purse seines meant for tuna.
00:07:17Because dolphins often school above the fish, fishermen targeted the mammals to catch tuna.
00:07:25Public outcry in the United,, States eventually pressured Congress into passing the 1990 Dolphin-Safe Act.
00:07:32Today the label indicates that government observers certify that the tuna has been caught without harming dolphins.
00:07:40This is achieved by physically lowering the float rope to allow the mammals to escape the net.
00:07:47While the Dolphin-Safe program has been very successful, limiting other types of by- catch is often more difficult.
00:07:55The National Marine Fisheries Service monitors commercial catch quotas and by-catch limits, but scientists and fishermen often don't see eye- to-eye.
00:08:06>> WILLIAM HOGARTH: This impacts the way they make a living, their profitability, and it was a lot of confrontation, I think, for along time, between us and them.
00:08:13It was the us versus them, and they're on the water every day and they see things, and so we started what's called cooperative research, working with the industry, and it's become a more open process.
00:08:25>> NARRATOR: Cooperative research pairs actual commercial fishermen with scientists to develop new conservation-minded fishing techniques.,, Most recently, this partnership has resolved a highly publicized, emotional by-catch issue-- the fate of the endangered sea turtle.
00:08:44For many years, shrimp trawlers were responsible for the catch, and often the subsequent deaths, of various sea turtle species.
00:08:52The National Marine Fisheries Service responded with a device that is now required gear on shrimp trawl nets-- it's called a turtle-excluder device.
00:09:02>> HOGARTH: Basically, it's very simple.
00:09:04It's a grid.
00:09:05It's usually made out of aluminum or-or stainless steel.
00:09:08It goes into the net.
00:09:09You put a hole below it, and so what it does is, the turtle hits that grid and just, it shoots out of the net, either the top or the bottom, but the grids are big enough so the fish go through.
00:09:22>> NARRATOR: The Marine Conservation Program at Massachusetts' Manomet Center is dedicated to reducing by-catch in the problematic New England fisheries.
00:09:32>> GLASS: So what we have been trying to do, over th-the years is to develop more targeted, more selective fishing practices,, that allow us to catch only the things that we want to catch, that there's a market for, and release everything else underwater unharmed.
00:09:48>> NARRATOR: The New England haddock fishery has long been plagued by the unwanted by- catch of the severely depleted Atlantic cod.
00:09:55The two fish frequently swim in close contact.
00:10:00Using fixed underwater video cameras, Manomet scientists studied the behavior of cod and haddock as they entered the net.
00:10:08They found that haddock usually react by swimming higher in the water.
00:10:12>> GLASS: So if they enter the net at a higher level, then we're able to put a separator panel in the middle of the net, which will direct all of the haddock into the cod-end, where we retain the fish, and all the cod will go out underneath.
00:10:24>> NARRATOR: A more far-reaching problem is the by-catch ofall species of juvenile fish.
00:10:30Regulations forbid catching small, young fish because of the potential damage to the stock's population.
00:10:39A larger net mesh size has helped curb some by-catch by allowing juveniles to escape the net, but scientists are now,, trying to improve results with behavior modification.
00:10:51>> GLASS: We know that most of the reactions of the fish are mediated through the visual system, so if the fish see what's around them, they try to, to avoid it.
00:11:00We inserted into the net something that we think would look likthe large, looming mouth of an approaching predator.
00:11:08So we simply put a black tarp inside the net.
00:11:11It causes all of the fish that encounter it to try and escape through the meshes, and the small ones are capable of doing it because they're small enough to get out of the meshes.
00:11:22>> NARRATOR: While still in its infancy, fish behavior modification is offering promising solutions to the by- catch problem.
00:11:30This fish psychotherapy may someday go high-tech.
00:11:34>> GLASS: This may, uh...
00:11:36involve things like using laser lights to direct fish to a much smaller cod end so that we're not throwing a whole net, uh...
00:11:45or we might be able to use, uh, ption to get fish to react to those.
00:11:51There are lots of things that we,, haven't even dreamt of yet.
00:11:56>> NARRATOR: While scientists are learning how to better preserve wild fish species, others are domesticating them in an effort to build the high-tech fish farm of the future.
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00:15:41,,t t The Max - Commercial >> NARRATOR: We now return to "Commercial Fishing" onModern Marvels.
00:16:15For thousands of years, commercial fishing followed a hunter-gatherer tradition-- pursuing and harvesting fish in the wild.
00:16:23But an explosion in world population and the reality of over-fishing have promoted a newer vision of the commercial fisherman.
00:16:31This fisherman doesn't catch fish, he farms it.
00:16:36In 1970, U.S. commercial aquaculture was in its infancy, with most farms raising trout, catfish or carp in in-land ponds or holding tanks.
00:16:47Worldwide aquaculture,, contributed just over three percent of all fish production.
00:16:52By the year 2003, it was contributing more than 30 percent.
00:16:59In the 21st century, the salmon is the king of the aquatic barnyard.
00:17:04The near-shore farming of salmon is a booming business, with vast underwater cage complexes located in calm water bays and estuaries in places like Norway, Chile and the coast of Maine.
00:17:17But large-scale, near-shore farming isn't the perfect solution.,, The environment could be the casualty.
00:17:25>> LINWOOD PENDLETON: Salmon raised in pens are raised in very high densities and just like with human beings when you have a lot of people together, a lot of fish together, disease tends to run rampant.
00:17:33And then these diseases get out to the wild populations and can cause them significant physiological stress.
00:17:40>> NARRATOR: A more typical issue is dealing with huge amounts of fish waste.
00:17:44>> PENDLETON: Salmon aquaculturalists need places that have clean water with very little pollution.
00:17:50The irony of needing these clean-water places for salmon is that salmon then in turn end up,, polluting the very water that was chosen for it's pristine nature.
00:18:02>> RICHARD LANGAN: The impacts that were noticed were primarily impacts on the sea floor.
00:18:06So, fish feces, uneaten food settling on the sea floor, changing what was natural environment into an environment that was degraded.
00:18:18>> NARRATOR: Salmon farmers are sensitive to these problems, and attempts have been made to reduce environmental impacts.
00:18:24But with 28 percent of the world's wild fish stocks either overfished or nearing extinction, aquaculture must overcome its drawbacks to help feed an expanding world.
00:18:37The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, has vowed to increase the annual value of U.S. fish farming from $1 billion to $5 billion dollars in the next 25 years.
00:18:49>> HOGARTH: We have to look at the combination.
00:18:52How does the wild and aquaculture fit together?
00:18:54So there's no doubt that aquaculture has a place in the future.
00:18:57Is it controversial?
00:18:58You bet.
00:18:59Right now it is extremely controversial.,, >> NARRATOR: One group of scientists is going where no fish farmer has dared to cultivate.
00:19:09Researchers with the University of New Hampshire's Open Ocean Aquaculture Program hope to neutralize some of the environmental impacts by moving the farm miles out to sea.
00:19:20>> LANGAN: I think the offshore environment is actually a better environment for a lot of the species that we're thinking about culturing.
00:19:26A lot more stable conditions in terms of the temperature and salinity, you got a lot of water movement so that there's always clean water and well oxygenated water.,, On the environmental side of things, you get a lot more dispersion of any kind of waste, of fish waste and any uneaten food.
00:19:45>> NARRATOR: After years of experiments with flounder and haddock in smaller cages, the team has built the first commercial scale farm containing over 35,000 of the famous Atlantic cod.
00:19:56But the scientific challenges of building an open-ocean cage that could withstand the biggest New England storms were daunting.
00:20:05>> LANGAN: When it came to mooring systems, we took an approach of developing modeling, tools so that we could understand how you would attach these things to the sea floor, what kind of anchors, what kind of ropes, where the stresses would be.
00:20:21>> NARRATOR: Three 3,000 cubic meter cages were assembled by divers and sunk to a depth of 100 feet.
00:20:29Nine one-ton ancho a and heavy duty chain hold the deep sea farm in place.
00:20:35Once the farm was up and running, thousands of cod fingerlings began their two-year lease in the blue water cages.,, But raising the brood of wild cod in captivity was uncharted territory, so video cameras were installed to monitor the nursery.
00:20:54The deep sea cameras are controlled remotely to observe the societal behaviors of the captive cod.
00:21:00The researchers implanted small sonar transmitters inside a number of fish.
00:21:05>> LANGAN: And then we have hydrophones or listening devices inside the cage, and we can then track these fish 24-hours a day, track their motion throughout the cage, not only where they go, but how fast they're swimming and understand what their behavior is and what their swimming speed is relative to feeding, relative to day/night differences, relative to interactions with other fish.
00:21:29>> NARRATOR: Because the farm is over 10 miles from shore, feeding the cod requires the latest in high tech room service.
00:21:39A lone automated feeder buoy sustains the colony.
00:21:44By periodically stocking the buoy with fish pellets, the researchers are able to pump measured quantities of feed into the cages.
00:21:55Inside the buoy is the remote- controlled brain that rings the dinner bell.
00:21:59>> LANGAN: So, we've got to have all the control mechanisms, all the solenoid valves and so on, that open and close all these valves, turn the pumps on, so it's really a giant computer that's out there, operating all these mechanical systems.
00:22:15And, what's nice about it is we can do that from the computer here at the University.
00:22:19>> NARRATOR: The Open-Ocean Aquaculture Project represents a,, quantum leap in fish farming.
00:22:24But it, too, has potential environmental impacts.
00:22:29OnOne of the greatest challenges is oxygen depletion.
00:22:34Farm-raised fish excrete ammonia, which depletes oxygen.
00:22:38>> LANGAN: Well, right now we can't measure it beyond the rim of the cage.
00:22:41We haven't seen any oxygen depletion.
00:22:43But then again, we have 35,000 fish out there.
00:22:46The farm of the future will have a half a million fish.
00:22:49Understanding what happens on a small scale and then building it out is going to help us predict what happens in a real,, commercial operation.
00:22:58>> NARRATOR: But even as fish farms get bigger, the world will continue to depend on wild caught fish to feed its growing masses.
00:23:06And in one remote fishery, there is a factory-at-sea that without restraint, has the capability to strip the oceans of their fish.,,,,ON TOP I switched to a complete multivitamin with more.
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00:27:33>> NARRATOR: We now return to "Commercial Fishing" onModern Marvels.
00:27:38Hundreds of miles from shore, in frigid Alaskan seas that can produce wave heights of 50 feet, the modern factory trawler gives chase to a school of pollock.
00:27:50Some of these massive catcher- processors have the ability to catch, process and freeze more than 500 tons of fish in a single day.
00:28:00>> BRETT JOHNSON: That's one of the reasons that a vessel like this is so large is that we take our production facility to the fish rather than bringing the fish to the production facility.
00:28:10>> NARRATOR: While salmon was and is still a lucrative Alaskan fish, for decades, few considered the boundless offshore populations of walleye pollock, pacific cod and whiting in the Gulf and Bering seas.
00:28:24In the 1950s, factory trawler fleets from the Soviet Union,,, Japan and other countries began fishing these remote waters.
00:28:33>> JOHN VAN AMERONGEN: As time went on, other people here in the Northwest understood that those fisheries were worth a lot of money, and that we could bring a lot more of those dollars home to the beach, home to America, if we extended o jurisdiction out to the 200- mile.
00:28:50It wasn't just the fisheries' decision, but it was a good decision for fisherman.
00:28:54>> NARRATOR: Until 1976, most nations observed a 12-mile territorial boundary at sea.
00:29:01Then Congress passed the Magnuson Act and the U.S.
00:29:04established a 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
00:29:08So did many other nations.
00:29:11The U.S. proceeded to evict the foreign fleets.
00:29:15At first, American fishermen worked in joint ventures with foreign factory vessels until the early 1980s, when the U.S.
00:29:23launched it's own factory trawler fleet.
00:29:26>> VAN AMERONGEN: When those vessels began coming around we began essentially taking over the entire fishery, and moving the foreign fleets off the 200-,, mile zone, and opening up a whole new kind of fishing in Alaska that we hadn't seen there before.
00:29:43>> NARRATOR: Based in Seattle's Puget Sound, today's fleet of catcher-processors travel to Alaskan waters for two fishing seasons in the winter and late summer.
00:29:55While there are only 15 active vessels in the entire fleet, their catch capacity is unrivaled.
00:30:02In 2002, the factory trawlers and smaller catcher vessels landed more than 1.5 million,, tons of pollock-- some 4 percent of the entire commercial fish catch in the United States.
00:30:15>> VAN AMERONGEN: At the time these big vessels were being developed, there were great technological advances going on in hydraulics, high pressure hydraulics, gear, big trawl winches, and certainly electronics.
00:30:31Also in the material that the nets were made out of, Spectra fiber nets, very similar to Kevlar, and things that you would make bullet proof vests out of.
00:30:41>> NARRATOR: With a price tag approaching $100,000, some of these mid-water monstrosities have a mouth nearly as wide as a football field is long.
00:30:50The Alaska Fishery Science Center makes and repairs a variety of trawl nets.
00:30:57>> DAVID KING: This is a four- seam bottom trawler used in the ground fish fisheries in Alaska.
00:31:01This net is towed by a boat of about seven hundred horsepower.
00:31:04Typical factory trawler in Alaska is closer to 2,500 to 3,500 horsepower, this is a lot smaller than you'll see on those boats, but it's of the same,, shape, just a smaller version of it.
00:31:17>> NARRATOR: Protecting many trawl nets from damage, and maximizing their spread radius underwater, is the duty of wireless acoustic sensors mounted on or near the otter mounted on or near the otter doors that pull the net.
00:31:30>> HILLERS: What these sensors do is send back information about the geometry of the trawl.
00:31:34These are door-spread sensors.
00:31:36One of them is placed on either door.
00:31:38And you can get the distance between it, and you can see that your trawl is flying stable.
00:31:42And this increases the efficiency of the fishing operation drastically.
00:31:46(beeping),, >> HANSON: This pollock fishery, fortunately, is the cleanest fishery in the world.
00:31:52And we catch almost 100% pollock.
00:31:56So it's very important for us, too, to keep it clean.
00:32:00>> NARRATOR: Fishermen often refer to the cod end of the net as the "moneybag." Knowing when the giant bag is full underwater isritical avoid smashi the fish with an oversized load.
00:32:13>> KING: These are catch-load sensors right here.
00:32:16And the way that these work are as the bag fills up, it naturally gets wider this way, these lines start taking some strain.
00:32:22And you'll see this-- oftentimes it's called a sausage.
00:32:25As that happens and these open up sideways, it pulls.
00:32:28And it trips this and sends an acoustic message back to the skipper, and says that, at this point, there's fish up tothis point in the bag.
00:32:36And when this happens, the skipper knows that I have a hundred-ton bag; I've got a hundred tons of fish, and it's time to haul back before I cause damage to the net.
00:32:45>> NARRATOR: Because the processing factory below deck runs 24 hours a day, fish must be caught at a rate that matches the factory's ability to process and freeze it.,, >> JOHNSON: Automation for us is of the essence.
00:32:58It's extremely important, because we don't have a lot of room on board for people.
00:33:04We're limited by the amount of people we can put on a vessel this size.
00:33:08So anything we can automate, we do.
00:33:11The vessels that we operate run somewhere between 15 and 20 tons of fish an hour, and on a pace that produces roughly a hundred tons of finished goods a day. >> NARRATOR: After sizing and weighing the catch, the removal of skin and bones begins.
00:33:27>> JOHNSON: We can process 120,, fish a minute through a fillet machine that will produce a boneless, skinless fillet.
00:33:33And that's done without any interaction with the fish other than the driver placing it into the machine.
00:33:39So sizing a proper adjustment of the fillet machine, is a critical thing for us.
00:33:46>> NARRATOR: The human eye cheche machine's work as the fillets cross the candling table.
00:33:52Here, workers check for any skin or bones tt t remain.
00:33:55From this point, the fish will become one of two products for the end consumer.
00:34:00The majority are pressed into, formed fish fillets that will end up as fast food sandwiches or fish sticks.
00:34:08The other product is called surimi.
00:34:10>> JOHNSON: Surimi was originally created as a form of storage for fish without refrigeration.
00:34:17The process of creating surimi is a process that removes the soluble protein and oils from the fish protein.
00:34:25N NARRATOR: This fish paste is later used to make imitation crab meat and many other manufactured foods in the Japanese market.,, When on-board processing is complete, the fish products are quickly frozen and then delivered to the ship's massive cold storage hold.
00:34:44When the hold is full, the fishing ends, and the vessel heads to port for unloading.
00:34:50Throughout the 1990s, a combined yearly harvest quota for pollock turned the Bering Sea into a high-stakes commercial fishing tournament.
00:35:00>> AMERONGEN: The fishing was open for everybody to fish as fast and as hard as you could until the quota was caught.
00:35:07There was a re pressure, not,, only from fishermen but from the environmental community, to what they call, "the race for fish." >> NARRATOR: But by the end of the 20th century, the Bering Sea pollock fishery underwent a drastic change.
00:35:22Today, the competitors are now teammates, as a cooperative is now in place to eliminate over- fishing.
00:35:30But when more than a million tons of pollock are being harvested in a single year, it's up to a new generation of fisheries scientists to make sure this fish will never share the fate of the Atlantic cod.
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00:38:27,,,, >> NARRATOR: We now return to "Commercial Fishing" onModern rvrvels.
00:40:00At Seaview Lobster Company in Kittery, Maine, a harvest of prehistoric-looking "bugs" is sorted, weighed and prepared for overnight shipment to points around the world.
00:40:13Commercial lobstering is a $300-million-a-year business-- one of America's highest-value fisheries.
00:40:21But the lust for lobster has a very short history.
00:40:23>> PETER FLANIGAN: Well, lobsters were always regarded as a, as a trash species.
00:40:27Years ago they used to wash up in wind rows on the beach, and people would harvest them and carry them home and spread them on the fields as fertilizer.
00:40:34They were always fed to the slaves and the servants and, you know, they were considered a very low-level dietary item.
00:40:40As time progressed, people,, seemed to develop a taste for them, and they became more and more popular.
00:40:45>> NARRATOR: By the late 1800s, their value skyrocketed, and the great lobster hunt began.
00:40:50>> WIN WATSON: And then as the fishing picked up, the numbers declined fairly rapidly.
00:40:55But the unusual thing-- the surprising thing-- is despite all the fishing pressure, the lobster populations have not declined much in the last 50 years, I'd say.
00:41:06>> NARRATOR: At the University of New Hampshire, zoologists are trying to determine how lobsters are resisting fishing pressure, in an attempt to better forecast their future.
00:41:18One part of the research uses video cameras placed inside the traps.
00:41:23The static lobster trap has changed very little.
00:41:27It still depends on the lobsters to capture themselves.
00:41:31>> WATSON: We found out that, although many lobsters approach traps and many lobsters go into traps, we actually end up catching very few of those lobsters.
00:41:41>> NARRATOR: The time-lapse cameras revealed that the lobster fishery thrives on inefficiency.
00:41:46>> WATSON: The most striking,, thing is that lobsters are climbing all over these traps.
00:41:51It's like a little anthill.
00:41:52Once a lobster gets into the trap, it prevents othersm entering while it's feeding.
00:41:57They can escape fairly readily.
00:41:5890% of them get out.
00:42:00We call it "the restaurant theory"-- that they're just stopping by, they're having something to eat.
00:42:05They occasionally get caught and pulled up to the surface, but many, many of them get away.
00:42:10This has implications of why the fishery is so robust.
00:42:13We're not removing as many lobsters as we might be able to remove if we had very efficient traps.
00:42:20>> NARRATOR: By mounting sonar,, transmitters on lobsters, the scientists are able to remotely monitor movement and gain valuable information on behavior dynamics. the inefficient New England lobster fishery, catch levels continue to be high.
00:42:40But inefficiency plays no part