Federal fisheries managers say they will consider action at their December meeting in Anchorage to extend Chinook prohibited species bycatch limits in the Gulf of Alaska from pollock to the non-pollock groundfish fisheries.
The decision came at the October meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage, where the council heard feedback on goals and objectives for Gulf of Alaska prohibited species catch tools.
To facilitate development of alternatives for analysis in this long council process, staff was asked to work up a discussion paper outlining carious catch share options for the Central Gulf trawl sector that may meet the objectives. Staff was told that the paper should also examine how other comparable programs have considered and applied the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act catch share provisions to meet similar objectives.
The council said it intends to develop a data collection program for fisheries included in the program to provide baseline data to assess effects of the change of management. A purpose and need statement produced by the council in October states that the current management limits the ability of the fleet to effectively address challenges arising from limits on prohibited species catch, Steller sea lion measures and variable total allowable catches.
In written testimony submitted for the meeting, Jeff Stephen, manager of the United Fishermen’s Marketing Association in Kodiak, urged the council to include all Central Gulf of Alaska groundfish harvest sectors in its initiative to develop a new fishery management system for Central Gulf groundfish. Stephen urged the council to consider the distribution of economic, social, cultural and community impacts, costs and benefits that may affect other Central Gulf groundfish harvest sectors, gear types, fisheries and communities as it proceeds in developing a new fishery management system for the Central Gulf groundfish trawl sector.
Kodiak harvester Darius Kasprzak told the council in his written testimony that while working on at least eight trawlers in the Central Gulf over the past several decades he had personally discarded hundreds of thousands of pounds of bycatch.
Kasprzak said he believe accessible tools to mitigate trawl bycatch already exist in the toolbox. These include, he said, restrictions on night fishing, horsepower, mesh size, overall gear size, and two durations/speeds. He also suggested that bycatch reduction devices and trip landing/catch limits be considered.