a comprehensive rationalized limited entry program for groundfish in the Gulf
of Alaska is off the table at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the
council continues to work on incremental steps that would limit the amount and
scope of fishing effort. Two items in particular were on the table during this
week’s council meeting in Kodiak. KMXT’s Casey Kelly has more.
2006, at the request of Governor Sarah Palin, a plan to rationalize the Gulf of
Alaska groundfish fisheries was put on hold by the North Pacific Council.
Considering the problems with the Bering Sea crab rationalization program,
council members decided to take a cautious approach to the gulf. However, Council
Member Duncan Fields of Kodiak says many of the issues that were part of the
comprehensive plan started to move independently.
1 :10s “…rather than one large step.”)
those small steps came before the council this week. The first was a proposal
to remove those gulf groundfish licenses from the pot, longline, and jig, or
fixed gear sectors that don’t have any recent catch history. The second is a
proposal to create a sector split for Pacific cod in the gulf, which would
divvy up the total allowable catch each season based on recent catch history
and other factors. Fields says the two issues are related, and are thus they
are moving through the council process mostly simultaneously.
2 :17s “…economic advantage to that.”)
close to 900 groundfish licenses in the gulf, but only 300 or so have any
recent catch history. Still, much of the public testimony received by the
council was opposed to straight up license removal. A variety of reasons were
given for why people didn’t want those 600 or so licenses retired, ranging from
fishermen who just bought permits and haven’t had time to make landings, to
those who cited market forces keeping people from entering the fishery. Still
others wanted endorsements that would restrict new entries into the lucrative
gulf cod fishery, but allow people to keep their licenses to fish other
groundfish species. Fisherman Dave Kubiak made a proposal that he thought would
be a good alternative.
1 :18s “…otherwise you become extinct.”)
proposed that the council look at capping vessel capacity, which he says is
more concerning to him than a whole bunch of new people entering the fishery.
2 :15s “…capacity is going to balloon.”)
shared Kubiak’s capacity concerns in light of ample public testimony about a
new class of 58-foot vessels, known as Super 8s, which have the ability to hold
much more fish than your standard 58 footer. The council requested an analysis
of capacity limits from its staff.
sector split proposal also drew a difference of opinion from the public,
especially on the question of whether or not it should be calculated based on
directed catch alone, or if incidental catch should be included as well. Many
fixed gear fishermen say it’s not fair to count the cod caught by the trawl
fleet that wasn’t part of a directed fishery. Jeremy Pikus, a pot fisherman
with the 58-foot Polar Star, tried to strike a compromise.
(Pikus 1 :26s “…across the board and apply that.”)
he’s a bit disappointed by the sector split analysis requested by the council,
because he says it took away the ability to compromise on directed versus
indirect catch of cod.
(Pikus 2 :12s “…would end up being.”)
Bonney of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank, who represents trawl vessel owners
and local processors, says under the current proposal each sector is
responsible for their own incidental catch, which makes it necessary to include
that catch in the historical calculation. She adds that another component that
will be analyzed before the sector split is final is a provision that would
move a sector’s allocation up or down based on its ability to reduce bycatch.
1 :26s “…that everybody can accept.”)
Pacific Council is tentatively scheduled to continue working on these two
issues through the rest of the year. Both are facing potential final action at
the council’s December meeting.