Final action on American Fisheries Act vessel replacement Gulf of Alaska sideboards is on the agenda for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s spring meeting in Anchorage April 1-9.
During its February meeting in Portland, Oregon, the council reviewed an analysis of allowing vessel replacement of AFA vessels, to clarify AFA vessel replacement provisions of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 and to prevent AFA vessels that are replaced from increasing fishing effort beyond historical catch levels in the Gulf of Alaska.
The council’s concern is the ability for increased harvest capacity in the Gulf of Alaska, even with sideboards.
The Coast Guard Act allows AFA vessels to be replaced for purpose of efficiency and safety rather than a total and constructive loss. In the Bering Sea, the AFA vessels fish mostly for pollock, but in the Gulf of Alaska they also participate in Pacific cod, flatfish and rockfish fisheries.
The council modified option 2.4 of the proposed action to prohibit Gulf of Alaska exempt AFA vessels that are replaced or rebuilt from exceeding the maximum length overall specified on the Gulf of Alaska license limitation permit.
The council noted that the vessel length recorded on the federal fishing permit is not verified by the Board Guard, and using the maximum length overall on the license limitation permit is consistent with other options, said Jon McCracken, an economist on the council staff.
The council also selected alternative 2 as the preliminary preferred alternative.
The vessel removal provision, which would extinguish the sideboard exemption, is also included in the preliminary preferred alternative, McCracken noted in the council’s newsletter on the February meeting. The purpose of selecting a preliminary preferred option at this time is to indicate to the public the likely direction the council may select at final action and provide for more focused public comments.
The council noted in its problem statement for the February meeting that the groundfish sideboard protections were included in the American Fisheries Act to prevent participating AFA vessels from increasing fishing effort beyond historical catch in the Gulf of Alaska. Ambiguities exist pertaining to groundfish sideboards in the AFA vessel replacement provisions of the Coast Guard Act, the council noted. For vessels with multiple licenses, it is unclear whether the maximum length overall on the Bering Sea license limitation permit or the Gulf of Alaska license limitation permit applies to a replacement vessel when fishing in the Gulf of Alaska.
In advance of the April meeting, the NPFMC has produced a public review draft of its regulatory impact review/initial regulatory flexibility analysis for AFA vessel replacement. It’s online at http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/PDFdocuments/catch_shares/AFA/AFAVesselReplacement413.pdf