The king salmon bycatch issue on the agenda for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Nome this week has attracted a great deal of attention. More than 500 people residing in communities dotting Alaska’s coastline have signed a letter asking the council to cap at 22,500 fish the number of king salmon that may be caught as bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska pollock trawl fishery. According to a list provided by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council those signers include commercial, sport and subsistence harvesters.
Not that the signers are pleased with that number. In fact, they said in their petition that they feel 15,000 fish is a more appropriate hard cap, because it represents an actual reduction from historical averages. Still, they said they support the preliminary preferred alternative as an important first step in placing limits on the waste of the prized kings in the gulf pollock fishery.
The signers also urged that the council include in its action 100 percent retention of all salmon caught incidentally to the Pollock fishery, in order to provide more data to use to form sounds management decisions. The signers of the petition said that there had been significant, unrestricted bycatch of king salmon in the gulf for decades and that the level of bycatch is unacceptable particularly in a period when some salmon stocks in the gulf are struggling.