Saturday, August 15, 2015

Alaska fisherman has an amazing encounter with porpoises

Three Dall porpoises play around the bow of a tour boat in 
Alaska's Prince William Sound.

During the past couple of weeks there have been two stories circulating on the Internet about whales tangled in garbage or fishing gear approaching boats as if to ask for help getting rid of it. In both cases folks were able to remove that tangling material.

The stories reminded me of another a friend told me several years ago. Mike Lopez seined for salmon for years in Alaska's Prince William Sound. Like most fishermen now and then he would find marine mammals tangled in his gear. One such encounter happened to another friend. When his crew hauled their net, a sea otter came up with the salmon to be dumped unceremoniously onto the deck. According to that friend the otter regained its feet, snarled and then backed the whole crew against the house before finding the gunwale and jumping overboard.

Mike's story is even better.  In seining, you lay your net out behind the boat, but unlike gillnetting where fish get stuck in the net itself, the seine is closed first in a circle at the top and tightly at the bottom and then the fish are hoisted onto the boat. There isn't a whole lot of bycatch in that kind of fishing.

So the way Mike told it, he and his crew had set their net out but before they closed it six Dall porpoises swam inside the area and became entangled in the netting. This is not a good situation for fishermen or for porpoises. Mike saw the porpoises thrashing around in the water, fighting the net, attempting to free themselves.

He took a skiff and drove it along the net until he reached the first porpoise. He approached the animal carefully trying not to look threatening. When he was close enough he caught a piece of the netting and immediately the porpoise stopped thrashing. According to Mike it floated docilely on the surface and allowed him to remove the net. That porpoise swam away from the net by remained close by.

Mike looked down the line and to his amazement all of the other porpoises had stopped their movements. The way he described it, they too floated on the surface as if patiently waiting for him  to free them as well.  He was able to pull himself along the cork line to each porpoise in turn while the others waited for him to untangle them too. In time he set all six free with no apparent injury. 

Thinking back on it now, in telling the story he never once mentioned what damage they might have done to his seine, only that he was happy he was able to free them. Seines aren't cheap and if in addition to the cost of repairs or replacement Mike lost a few days fishing during the short salmon seine season, that adventure could have cost him a considerable amount of money.

Still in the telling it was about the porpoises, not the money and six porpoises survived what could easily have been a deadly encounter.

3 comments:

  1. What a great blog. Have to share that one, too. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The story is very accurate. I was there and you told that spot on. Cool that you would write this so that it doesnt get lost. – Eric Lopez (Mike's son)

    ReplyDelete

Interesting quotations

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeare on Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

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We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

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Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

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"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

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This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

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