The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, in its December meeting in Anchorage, boosted pollock allocations in groundfish fisheries, but left unresolved bycatch issues threatening some directed halibut fisheries.
For the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, the total allowable catch of pollock was raised from 1,267,000 ton to 1,310,000 tons, while Pacific cod allocations were cut from 246,897 tons to 240,000 tons. Atka mackerel allocations also saw a boost from 32,322 tons to 54,500 tons.
In the Gulf of Alaska, the council raised the pollock TAC from 174,976 tons to 199,151 tons, and the Pacific cod quota from 64,738 tons to 75,202 tons.
The council took final action on management of the 2015 charter halibut fishery in Alaska, with a two-fish daily bag limit and five fish annual limit in area 3A, and a one-fish daily bag limit for Area 2C.
The council released for public review analysis of the sablefish pot longline gear, noting that interactions with whales has affected the ability of sablefish quota share holders to harvest their individual fishing quotas.
Also released for public review was an analysis of Chinook and chum salmon bycatch measures in the Bering Sea pollock fishery, with the council noting that the current chum salmon bycatch reduction program does not meet the council’s objectives to prioritize Chinook salmon bycatch avoidance. The current Chinook salmon bycatch reduction program under Amendment 91 was designed to minimize bycatch to the extent practicable in all years, under all conditions of salmon and pollock abundance.
The council noted that while king salmon bycatch impact rates have been low under the program, there is evidence that improvements could be made to ensure the program is reducing king salmon bycatch at low levels of salmon abundance. This could include measures to avoid salmon late in the year and to strengthen incentives across both seasons, either through revisions to the incentive plan agreements or regulations.