North Pacific Fishery Management Council, meeting in Kodiak today (Friday),
narrowed down its options for reducing king salmon bycatch by the Bering Sea
pollock fleet. The unintentional snaring of Chinook salmon by pollock boats has
skyrocketed in recent years, and comes as subsistence and commercial fishermen
in western Alaska have noticed less of the fish returning to their streams and
river systems. KMXT’s Casey Kelly has more.
Last year was a record setting
season for king salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery, with nearly
130,000 Chinook captured by the fleet’s trawl nets. Since pollock and salmon
sometimes swim in the same ocean waters, it’s unlikely that bycatch will ever be
eliminated entirely. But the North Pacific Council has been wrestling with how
to curb the problem without costing the pollock fishery--the largest volume
fishery in the U.S.--any of its catch.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Commissioner Denby Lloyd, who represents the state on the council, made a
motion to identify a preliminary preferred alternative, which will go forward
for further analysis at future meetings.
(Lloyd 1 :21s “…come
down off of those.”)
The state’s motion includes two
possible scenarios with different overall caps, depending on what efforts that
the pollock industry makes each year to provide incentives for its boats to
fish cleanly. In one scenario, if the pollock industry fails to provide
incentives to reduce bycatch, the cap is set at about 47,500 Chinook. However,
if the industry does provide incentives, the cap will be about 68,000.
(Lloyd 2 :23s “…relief
valve that’s warranted.”)
For boats that opt out of the
incentives entirely, the overall cap is about 32,500, which means they would
have to stop fishing once that level is reached by the entire fleet. Other
provisions include allowing a boat to rollover 80 percent of its unused bycatch
from the pollock fishery’s “A,” or winter fishing season to its summer “B”
season, and sector level caps that allocates a percentage of the overall cap to
the different sectors within the fishery.
The pollock industry wasn’t
entirely happy with the preliminary alternative. Most agree that the fleet has
done a good job so far this year of policing itself through rolling hotspots
and fixed closures where high levels of Chinook are found.
John Gruver is with United Catcher
Boats and is the inter-coop manger for the pollock fishery’s catcher vessel
fleet. He says the industry would have preferred a higher cap, and he’s not
sure about the feasibility of coming up with incentives that will work across
(Gruver 1 :18s “…a
very diverse industry.”)
But as with any good compromise,
the other side wasn’t entirely satisfied either. Art Ivanoff is a subsistence
fisherman from Unalakleet in Norton Sound. He says his and other western Alaska
villages can’t stand to lose much more salmon.
(Ivanoff 1 :28s “…to make the right decision.”)
The council will have a chance to
refine the preliminary alternative before final action is taken. The original
plan was to adopt the final rule in December of this year. However, that
timeline was pushed back until April 2009, meaning the cap won’t take effect
until 2010 at the earliest.
I’m Casey Kelly.