The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has asked its staff for a discussion paper that evaluates the regulatory changes needed to incorporate Bering Sea chum salmon bycatch avoidance into its Chinook salmon incentive plan agreements.
The goal, as seen by Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell, is lower incidental catch of king and chum salmon during pollock fisheries.
“The objectives of this action are to prioritize Chinook salmon bycatch avoidance, while preventing high chum salmon bycatch and focusing on avoidance of Alaska chum salmon stocks, and allow flexibility to harvest pollock in times and places that best support those goals,” wrote Campbell, in the motion approved by the council.
The motion calls for an evaluation of necessary changes to the IPA objectives and reporting requirements in regulation, and identification of effects of such a change. It also will identify whether there are elements of a rolling hot spot system that the council should consider retaining or adding to regulations that define incentive plan agreements.
The discussion paper will also evaluate possible measures to refine Chinook salmon bycatch controls in the Bering Sea pollock fisheries, including shortening the pollock season to end when pollock catch rates significantly decline and Chinook salmon prohibited species catch rates increase in October.
Staff is also asked to include in the evaluation information on potential revisions to the annual reporting requirements, combined for chum and king measures.
During its October meeting the council heard from a number of industry representatives on their progress in lowering the incidental catch of salmon during groundfish fisheries.
They also heard from fishermen who have been hard hit economically and are tired of having to sit out salmon fisheries while so much salmon is taken as bycatch in groundfish fisheries.
“We’ve had a crisis for over 10 years now,” said Roy Ashenfelter, speaking for Kawarek Inc., a regional non-profit organization in Nome for the Bering Straits region.
“I heard about millions of dollars to try to change what is going on,” he said. “For us it is food on the table. I have a lot of pride in fishing for my family. That has been taken away from us. We don’t have any Chinook in our river. We have no more Chinook,” he said.