With the North Pacific Fishery Management Council poised to begin an initial review of Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon bycatch controls, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council this week issued a call for action.
AMCC issued a news release in Anchorage, where the council is meeting from March 28 through April 5, urging that the limit on incidental harvest of king salmon in the Gulf Pollock fishery be set at a maximum of 15,000 fish.
Council members are expected to look at limits ranging from 15,000 to 30,000 kings, when the agenda item comes up on Friday.
Along with the bycatch cap, the NPFMC will consider requiring that the trawl fleet cooperate to meet any new conservation goal. Such an approach would emulate systems now used by the larger Pollock fleets in the Bering Sea that reward clean fishing and penalize vessel owners with high bycatch.
Last year some 41,000 Chinook salmon were taken as bycatch during the Gulf Pollock fishery, a record bycatch according to federal statistics., while the region’s king salmon runs were at historic low returns.
Chinook salmon returns for all Gulf of Alaska management areas last year were below 10-year averages. In fact, AMCC argued, the Pollock fishery bycatch exceeded the combined commercial king salmon harvest in the Kodiak and Chignik areas by some 20,000 fish.
More than 500 people living in coastal Alaska communities recently signed a letter urging that the bycatch not be allowed to exceed 15,000 kings, AMCC said.
Harvester Theresa Peterson, who serves as Kodiak outreach coordinator for AMCC, said fishermen are looking for solutions – commercial, sport and subsistence salmon fishermen as well as the trawl fleet. Peterson said the group hopes the state and fishery managers can reach an agreement for expedited and meaningful action that will be in the best interest of the state, fishing jobs and coastal communities.