The December meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is under way in Anchorage today, with an agenda that includes the announcement of groundfish harvest specifications, salmon bycatch and halibut issues, and more.
A full 24 hours has been allocated for discussion and testimony on prohibited species catch of chum salmon in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Chinook bycatch for all trawl fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska. Both areas of incidental harvest are up for initial review, and complete documents for both initial reviews are available online at www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc.
Live audio of the entire meeting is also available online at www.npfmc.webex.com
The Gulf of Alaska initial review document analyzes proposed management measures that would apply to all trawl fisheries in the central and western Gulf of Alaska, except the directed pollock fishery. Measures under consideration include setting prohibited species catch limits in the central and western Gulf of Alaska for Chinook salmon, measures that would close fisheries in those regulatory areas once attained, and full retention of salmon species.
The three alternatives include status quo; a hard cap of 5,000, 7,500, 10,000 or 12,500 Chinook salmon, and full retention of all salmon bycatch until the number of salmon has been determined by the vessel or plant observer, and that observer’s collection of scientific data or biological samples from the salmon has been completed.
The document prepared by staff of the federal fisheries council notes in its environmental assessment that non-pollock trawl fisheries have an adverse impact on Chinook salmon through direct mortality due to prohibited species catch. Under the status quo, there are no additional management measures to reduce prohibited species bycatch of king salmon in the Gulf’s non-pollock trawl fisheries.
The initial review document notes that the average prohibited species catch for the non-pollock trawl fisheries is 6,176 king salmon over the last 10 years. The highest king salmon prohibited species bycatch occurred in 2003 and 2010, with catches of 10,877 and 9,694 Chinook salmon respectively.