The North Pacific Fishery Management Council was urged today to move forward with an analysis of Chinook salmon bycatch, and develop a problem statement aimed at dramatically reducing the hard cap on these prized fish.
The request came in a letter from the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association, the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, the Association of Village Council Presidents, the Tanana Chiefs Conference, in Fairbanks and Kawerak Inc., in Nome.
The council’s summer meeting will be held in Nome June 2-10.
“In light of the declines in Western Alaska Chinook salmon stocks, and the severe impacts on Western Alaskans as a critical source of food, income and culture has disappeared, it is imperative that mortality from bycatch in the pollock fishery is reduced as well,” the group told the NPFMC.
“While the cause of the declines is unclear, in-river users are making extreme sacrifices and in some areas have had their harvest reduced to zero. In this situation, literally every Chinook counts, and it is both a conservation need and a matter of equity to ensure that bycatch is reduced as well. The ultimate goal of bycatch reduction should be zero, and we should be striving toward this goal.”
The group urged the federal fisheries council to consider two alternatives.
The first would reduce the overall hard cap and performance standards under the current Amendment 91 structure, reducing the overall hard cap from 60,000 to 20,000 kings, and the performance standard/cap without incentive programs from 47,591 to 14,500 fish.
The second alternative sought would provide regulatory provisions to shorten the pollock season end dates when Chinook salmon rates increase while pollock catch rates decline in late September and October.