Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Final Action Slated on Bering Sea Salmon Bycatch

Federal fisheries managers are slated to take final action in early April on the incidental harvest of Chinook and chum salmon in the Bering Sea pollock fishery.

Also on the agenda for the April 6-13 meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage are final action on Gulf of Alaska sablefish longline pots, an update on Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands salmon bycatch genetics, a discussion paper on Area 4A halibut retention in sablefish pots, and an initial review of observer coverage on small catcher processors.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, after much deliberation at its December meeting in Anchorage, modified alternatives under consideration to include two major changes.

The first was the option of modification of seasonal apportionment of pollock total allowable catch from the A season to the B season, including shifting 5 percent to 10 percent of the B-season quota into the A-season. The second change would be reducing both the performance standard and the overall prohibited species catch limit by the same percentage reductions of 25 percent to 60 percent in time of low western Alaska Chinook salmon abundance.

The analysis taken under review by the council in December to modify bycatch management for Chinook and chum salmon in the Bering Sea pollock fishery summarized the impacts of several broad management measures. These included combined management measures for Chinook and chum salmon under pollock industry-run incentive plan agreements, modifications to pollock seasons, modifications to management for Chinook under incentive plan agreements, and lower performance standards for Chinook bycatch under conditions of low western Alaska Chinook abundance.

The analysis indicated that moving chum salmon into incentive plan agreement management would likely be beneficial and provide for more comprehensive management of both species.

Measures to incrementally create more stringent incentives within the incentive plan agreements for Chinook salmon were expected to be successful in reducing some additional Chinook salmon bycatch, although actual savings would depend on the magnitude of the incentives and vessel-level responses.

The council concluded that measures to modify the pollock B season were also expected to result in savings of Chinook salmon as they reduced the need to fish in September and October when Chinook bycatch rates are highest. However, this could increase chum salmon bycatch incrementally as well as result in the potential for forgone pollock harvest, particularly at the vessel-level, council staff noted.

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