Wednesday, June 15, 2016

NPFMC Wrestles With Bycatch Management

Federal fisheries managers considering a revised management structure for Gulf of Alaska groundfish trawl fisheries heard hours of testimony at Kodiak in early June from dozens of industry participants advocating for and against the plan.

Harvesters, fisheries organizations, processors, communities and environmental entities addressed the issue in written testimony and hours of oral comment before the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which was tasked with refining action alternatives including Alternative 1, to maintain the status quo.

At length the council refined the alternatives in a 17-page document, and directed staff to provide a preliminary analysis describing impacts of the revised alternatives adopted. The council also asked the National Marine Fisheries Service to publish a Federal Register notice announcing a new public scoping opportunity on the council’s purpose and need, goals and objectives, and alternatives adopted.

During staff tasking the matter was placed on the agenda for the council’s December meeting in Anchorage for further discussion and possible further action.

The overarching goal and objective included in the revised document includes minimizing economic barriers for new participants by limiting harvest privileges that may be allocated in order to maintain opportunity for entry into Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries.

The overall motivation for the proposed management plan is to provide the fleet with a structure under which it can minimize prohibited species catch, better utilize the allowed prohibited species catch to harvest more groundfish, create additional value from the resource, and provide stability for dependent Gulf fishing communities.

Alternative 2 would allocate groundfish and prohibited species catch access privileges to voluntary cooperatives based on the fishing history associated with the federal licenses enrolled in each cooperative.

Alternative 3 would allocate only prohibited species catch to the cooperatives. Allocation would be based on vessels’ intent to participate in the Gulf trawl fishery during the upcoming year, historical dependency on Gulf trawl fisheries, and membership in a cooperative that signs onto an inter-cooperative bycatch management agreement.

Alternative 4, which could be paired with alternatives 2 or 3, includes options for additional measures meant to address community stability and other unanticipated effects of the program that could arise in the future.

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