Wednesday, February 10, 2016

GOA Trawl Bycatch Measure Inches Forward

Federal fisheries managers are inching forward with a proposal for a revised management structure for Gulf of Alaska groundfish trawl fisheries, directing staff to look at several issues within the draft environmental impact statement.

Alternative 3, which was added to that discussion paper during the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s October meeting, defines a program under which prohibited species catch is allocated to voluntary cooperatives, but groundfish quotas are not. If the council choose during an upcoming meeting to select Alternative 3, prohibited species catch would be allocated on the basis of vessels as opposed to licenses, and could be allocated according to either “equal shares” or vessel capacity.

Additional elements within that alternative would limit consolidation through transfer restrictions, and direct cooperatives to develop contract terms that promote active participation, council staff said in a background document.

When new or revised fishery management plans come before the council, they go through a lengthy process, which include discussion of how the new or revised plan will affect the economies of coastal communities dependent on fisheries, plus bycatch, sustainability and other environmental issues.

The council, guided by national standards for fisheries within the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, moves with caution, at a pace that usually results in final action taking several years.

Julie Bonney, executive director of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank at Kodiak, was one of several representatives of the Gulf trawl fishery who signed a letter to Alaska Gov. Bill Walker contending that the proposal before the council “will make it virtually impossible for our industry to maintain the kind of economic benefits we have provided to towns like Kodiak, Sand Point and King Cove.”

Bonney said the proposed revised management plan is unrealistic in its assessment of the effects of Alternative 3 on cooperation between fishery participants and how the co-ops will work.

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