regulators are moving toward setting a hard cap that would limit chinook salmon
caught as bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska. The
North Pacific Fishery Management Council met over the weekend in Anchorage but final action will wait until June when the
council reconvenes in Nome.
The cap could come into effect a soon as next year. KMXT's Jacob Resneck has
-- chinook bycatch
pkg :3:29 "Bycatch of chinook ... I'm Jacob Resneck."
The North Pacific
Fishery Management Council's staff analysis found that chinook bycatch follows
predictable patterns with spikes coinciding with the Pollock fleet that trawl
in the Gulf of Alaska.
Peterson of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council is one of those that had
encouraged the council to set the cap at 15,000 fish. But the council opted to
set the cap higher. 22,500 was the number agreed to on Saturday.
been resisted by the Pollock industry. An alternative proposal would have created
mandatory cooperatives. These cooperatives would monitor bycatch numbers and
allocate bycatch levels between vessels. But lawyers from the National Oceanic
Atmospheric Administration advised the council this structure wouldn't be legal
as it would be devolving managerial powers from regulators to private industry.
Julie Bonney of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank which advocates for the Pollock
fleet. She predicted a cap would be difficult for the fleet as allocations for
Pollock are on the rise.
returns of king salmon have been weak. That's triggered the Alaska Department
of Fish and Game to limit this summer's king salmon sport fishery on the Karluk River
to catch-and-release only. On the Ayakulik the bag limit will be one fish with
a season maximum of two.
similar restrictions around the state, Peterson praised the council's apparent willingness
to impose a cap as a way to help bring relief to faltering runs across Alaska.
chinook bycatch plan would also extend observer coverage to under-60 foot
vessels. None of this is final. The council will revisit the plan at its
upcoming meeting in Nome.
year's bycatch total of about 51,000 chinook automatically triggered
consultation with Lower-48 fishery managers in accordance with the Endangered
Species Act. That's because the Gulf of Alaska is a major feeding ground for
salmon who return to rivers in British Columbia,
California and Asia.
many chinook in the Gulf of Alaska are hatchery
fish and how many are from wild rivers is still controversial. And it will take
expanded genetic stock testing to better understand the origins of these fish.
I'm Jacob Resneck