Federal fisheries officials have approved allowing American Fisheries Act vessel owners to rebuild or replace their vessels, but sideboard exemptions will be extinguished and not transferrable for any AFA vessels removed from the fleet.
While the 2010 Coast Guard Act allows rebuilding or replacement of these vessels, the final action of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council during its April meeting in Anchorage restricts vessels in varying degrees on their ability to fish outside of the Bering Sea.
The measure now goes to the Commerce Department for approval.
The measure allows AFA vessel owners to participate in Gulf of Alaska fisheries with a replacement or rebuilt vessel as long as the replacement or rebuilt vessel does not exceed the maximum length overall specified on the Gulf of Alaska license limitation program groundfish license assigned to the vessel at the time of fishing in the Gulf of Alaska by the vessel. If an AFA vessel owner removes an AFA vessel that is exempt from sideboard limitations, the sideboard exemption is extinguished and the exemption cannot be transferred to another vessel.
The status quo alternative was selected by the council during its February meeting as a preliminary preferred alternative.
An AFA rebuilt or replacement vessel would be subject to no limitations on length, size or horsepower while participating in Bering Sea/Aleutian Island fisheries. An AFA replacement vessel will be eligible to participate in Bering Sea/Aleutian Island fisheries in the same manner as the replaced vessel and will receive the same licenses and permits that the replaced vessel held. If the replaced vessel was exempt from sideboard limitations, the replacement vessel will be exempt in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands. If the replaced vessel was subject to sideboard limitations, the replacement vessel will be subject to the same limitations in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands.
An AFA replacement vessel is, however, subject to a limitation on its participation outside of the North Pacific.
In total, there are 118 catcher vessels, 21 catcher processors, and three motherships that would be directly impacted by this measure, council staff noted.