It was a busy week at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (Council) April meeting. Here’s a summary of the important items discussed:
- Taking final action on several charter halibut issues
- Advancing an abundance-based management approach for halibut in the Bering Sea
- Initiating a discussion paper to consider allowing the release of small sablefish
- Expanding a discussion paper on targeting halibut and sablefish with pot gear in the Bering Sea
- Voting to postpone indefinitely the proposal to modify Chinook bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska catcher vessel trawl sector
Abundance-Based Management for Halibut Bycatch
For nearly three years, the Council has been working on developing a policy that would manage halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Island groundfish fisheries. The policy would implement new bycatch caps that are based, in part, on the abundance of the halibut stock, as opposed to using a fixed bycatch cap. AMCC supports this effort because it could improve the conservation and management of the halibut resource while also providing prioritizing access for the directed fishery at times of low abundance.
The Council took a significant step forward at the April meeting, developing draft alternatives based on stakeholder input from the various sectors (i.e., hook and line, trawl, and directed halibut). Acknowledging that these alternatives were only the start of an iterative process, the Council recognized that the industry proposals, as amended by the Council, would serve as a good baseline for analyzing how an abundance-based policy would affect each fishery. Moving forward, the abundance-based management working group will provide a brief update to the Council’s Science and Statistical Committee at the June meeting in Kodiak and bring back a draft environmental impact statement for review in October.
Lastly, in response to directed halibut users’ requests to have the Council develop a mechanism to manage or incentivize a further reduction in legal sized halibut, the Council directed staff to provide a white paper detailing the availability of relevant data from the observer program. This concept offers one of the best linkages between halibut bycatch and directed halibut quotas and we therefore see it as an important concept in helping the Council achieve their stated objective of providing for directed halibut operations in the Bering Sea. This paper will likely be available for review in June or October.
GOA Trawl Chinook PSC Limits
The Council reviewed an action which considered modification of Gulf of Alaska (GOA) Chinook salmon prohibited species catch (PSC) in the GOA non-pollock groundfish and rockfish program catcher vessel trawl fisheries. After careful consideration of new information since establishing Chinook salmon bycatch caps for these trawl fisheries in 2015, a majority of the Council voted in favor of postponing the action indefinitely. The discussion and subsequent analysis was in response to new information provided by expanded observer coverage on under 60-foot trawl catcher vessels in the GOA, as well as ongoing genetic sampling efforts to determine the river of origin for bycaught Chinook salmon. Improved observer data on under 60-foot trawlers revealed bycatch was higher than estimated in the Western Gulf of Alaska and increased genetic sampling suggests 97% of the trawl bycatch in the GOA is from Southeast Alaska, British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. During the development of original bycatch caps, this information was not available to the Council members and is relevant in determining whether such caps are set at the appropriate levels under National Standard 9 of the Magnuson Stevens Act.
New information in the analysis also highlighted the status of Chinook stocks in Southeast Alaska river systems and the magnitude of the declines of Chinook salmon escapement in a number of rivers. In 2017, there were three new listings of stocks of concern and recent data indicates two more rivers may be listed after 2018, with returns forecasted to be one of the lowest on record. In response to the decline, the Board of Fish voted to impose severe restrictions on salmon fishermen in Southeast. The closures will provide corridors for the Chinook salmon to pass to help address numerous unmet escapement goals. Ocean conditions appear to be the primary source affecting the survivability of young Chinook as they experience high rates of mortality their first few years in the ocean. Nonetheless, genetic studies indicate approximately 15% of the trawl bycatch is bound for Southeast.
While it is not possible to know how many of these fish would survive to spawn, efforts to reduce fishing pressure for all user groups will contribute to rebuilding the stocks. Small numbers of spawners, 200-400 fish, may help with the rebuilding plan and may help begin a recovery process. A letter to the Council from the Board of Fish expressed concern with any action that could result in increased Chinook bycatch and noted that negotiations were underway with the Pacific Salmon Treaty and that “increasing the Chinook salmon PSC limits would severely exacerbate already contentious treaty negotiations.” After reviewing the suite of new information, the Council chose a precautionary approach, consistent with the National Standards, and determined it was not the time to continue a discussion of modifying Chinook limits for the trawl fleet.
An unprecedented recruitment of baby sablefish and concern from Gulf of Alaska fishermen about the impacts of harvesting large amounts of small fish led to the initiation of a discussion paper to consider modifying the requirements to retain small sized sablefish in the IFQ longline and pot fishery. The paper will include a discussion of available data to inform discard mortality rates along with consideration of the trade-offs of a minimum size requirement versus a voluntary careful release.
Also, in the IFQ halibut/sablefish fisheries the Council expanded the discussion to consider the ability to target halibut and sablefish in the Bering Sea with pot gear. The discussion is in response to interactions with whales throughout the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. Fishermen report increased whale predation and changes in fishing strategies, such as moving to a different location and dropping the gear back down when the whales show up, does not seem to help much. Careful consideration of potential gear conflicts will be a part of the discussion.
Charter Halibut Issues
The Council voted to approve a measure that would require guided and non-guided anglers that are using a sport guide service to remain subject to guided sport fishing limits. Additionally, the Council approved implementation of an annual registration process for transferable and non-transferable charter halibut permits to better understand current use.
Modernizing Fisheries Management Should Benefit All Sectors
By Shannon Carroll and Susie Zagorski for Fisherman’s News
For more than forty years, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) has utilized a precautionary science-based approach to fisheries management. This approach has led to some of the most sustainably managed fisheries in the world. A key component to this success has been the use of exempted fishing permits (EFPs), which have incentivized innovation, improved sustainability, and developed lasting partnerships between industry and managers.
It is surprising, then, that some members of Congress are seeking to limit the use of EFPs. As introduced, Senate Bill S. 1520 — the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 — does just that by making the EFP process so onerous that it is unlikely to be used in any region. In doing so, S. 1520 will inhibit the ability of industry and managers to pilot new and creative improvements to managing fisheries.
Read the full story here.
Catch49 is for Alaskans, by Alaskans
Unique Alaska CSF is in its fourth year.
Originally published March 21, 2018 on intrafish.com
Alaska seafood is the No. 1 brand featured on all US menus. But not much of it stays inside Alaska, where the majority is exported around the world, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That’s what makes Catch 49 unique. This community supported fishery (CSF) provides Alaskans with wild seafood harvested by Alaska’s small-boat fishermen. Catch 49 is one of many initiatives run by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AMCC). “All profits go towards AMCC’s fisheries conservation efforts, so the program is definitely unique in that sense,” Cassandra Squibb, who is helping market the CSF, told IntraFish. “Second, we are committed to supporting local, Alaska resident fishers and processors, and serving as a conduit in providing local, sustainable seafood to fellow Alaskans who share our values for maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem.” She said the CSF strives to procure seafood species that many Alaskans simply don’t have the opportunity to try, such as Norton Sound red king crab, Kodiak tanner crab and Prince William Sound spot prawns. The CSF allows customers in the state to order a share of the season’s harvest from small-boat Alaska fishermen ahead of time. Customers then can pick up their orders at a designated site in Anchorage, Fairbanks or Homer, about two weeks after the ordering period closes. “Although the program is quite consumer focused, we have had a high level of interest from foodservice operators in Alaska,” she said. “Not only does each offering come with information about the fishery, but we also can provide the name of the captain, the vessel, and exactly where the fish was caught.”
Almanac on sale now!
If you haven’t purchased a copy of the Young Fishermen’s Almanac yet, get one while supplies last! They will be available to purchase in-person at AMCC events and online here.
Upcoming events – join us!
Kodiak Jig Rockfish Taco Night
Wednesday, March 21, 4-6 p.m., Kodiak Island Brewery
Suggested Donation: $5
Join AMCC, the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute for a taco feed! Meet new faces, see familiar ones, and enjoy beverages and locally caught rockfish tacos!
Stories Above the Bay
Friday, March 23, Noon to 1:30 p.m. at Best Western Kodiak Inn
Entertainment, Alaska-style. We are celebrating the Young Fishermen’s Almanac! Hear personal stories and poetry and enjoy art, all from Alaska fishermen. We will be serving some delicious Kodiak jig-caught rockfish chowder made by Monk’s Rock Coffee House. If you haven’t purchased a copy yet, the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Almanac will be available for sale!
Boat. Work. Break.
Wednesday, April 4, 6-10 p.m., 49th State Brewing Company
You’ve probably been working all spring. Take a night to relax and get to know your fellow Alaska fishermen, policymakers and marine advocates! Hosted by the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association for a night of stories, poems and film honoring the next generation of fishermen. There will be signups for skippers, policymakers and crew to be members of the apprenticeship program and/or the AYFN. Food will feature 49th State Brewing Co. fish tacos made with Homer longline-caught halibut.
Hiring Local Seafood Sales Coordinator
The Alaska Marine Conservation Council is seeking a fish-loving individual to serve as our Local Seafood Sales Coordinator. This part-time position is responsible for helping to scale up AMCC’s local seafood sales programs and promoting AMCC’s branded seafood hub (Catch 49). This position works closely with an array of fishing and processing partners, chefs, restaurants/breweries, other staff members, as well as marketing contractors.
For more information, please click here.
Latest Catch49 offerings
It’s almost that time of year… spot prawn season! Pre-order your Prince William Sound spot prawns today through Catch 49. Other exciting offerings coming up will be for Kodiak rockfish, Kodiak tanner crab, Norton Sound king crab, and Homer Pacific halibut.
Advocacy trip in Washington, D.C.
AMCC, the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, and six Alaska fishermen traveled to Washington, D.C., last month to advocate for programs like the Young Fisherman’s Development Act (YFDA). Jamie O’Connor, Danielle Ringer, Christopher Johnson and Matt Alward, along with AMCC staff members Shannon Carroll and Theresa Peterson were in attendance. This federal legislation would support our next generation of fishermen by providing grants to encourage training, education, and workforce development which are absolutely essential to ensure the continued health and prosperity of our fishing families and coastal communities.
We we fortunate to meet with Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, Congressman Young, and 14 different congressional offices and staff from across the country to share our thoughts on the YFDA, as well as the need for science-based management and accountability in all sectors of the fishing industry.
While we were there, we submitted 742 signatures AMCC had collected in support of the Young Fishermen’s Development Act and our MSA platform.
Young Fishing Fellowship update
Check out our current list of fellowship projects here.
Update from Deputy Director Shannon Carroll
If we want to support federal fisheries, we must first look at what the MSA is doing well. Currently, MSA allows regional fishery management councils to have flexibility when it comes to how their fisheries are managed. This means they can effectively use exempted fishing permits and partner with industry to reduce bycatch, habitat impacts, and implement ecosystem-based fishery management or quota banks. The MSA also provides rigorous standards to protect the long-term sustainability of our fisheries through science-based annual catch limits. The results are clear-since 2000, nearly 40 fisheries have been rebuilt across the country!
So, what should Congress prioritize during this round of reauthorization?
1. Consider the strengths of the current law. Regional flexibility has allowed the bill to remain responsive to changes over time. Maintaining science-based provisions of the bill will ensure healthy fisheries into the future and encourage accountability.
Our flight banked beside the National Mall on approach as the sun set orange over Washington D.C. This was my first trip back since I left my job as a Senate staffer eighteen months before. To get my nerves ready to land, I jacked some nostalgic rock into my headphones. Some of the fishermen flying in with me had never made this landing; some, like me, had seen it many times. This time, however, I was a constituent representing my community, an Alaskan, and a fisherman. Much like before, my job on this trip was to connect Alaskans to their representatives in our nation’s capital. But now, I was also here to share my own story.
“My name is Jamie O’Connor and I’m a fifth-generation salmon fisherman from Bristol Bay,” I’d begin. “I was fortunate enough to grow up fishing with my parents and great-grandparents. Which gives me a special, long view on what happens when you manage your resource for sustainable harvest. In Bristol Bay, it’s resulted in the largest, most sustainable salmon fishery in the world.” I’d pause, waiting for that fact to sink in before continuing. “And we maintain those runs through strong, science-based fisheries management. So, I’m here to ask that we maintain that focus in the Capitol, fund the necessary science, and use it to ensure that my great-grandchildren, and the generations that follow them, may benefit from the fishing culture and livelihood that has given me so much. Someday it will be their turn to feed the world.”
I repeated that introduction thirteen times over two days with varying delivery to offices on and off the Hill. So did the eight other fishermen in our group. While each of our stories were a little different, each supported the science-based management policy we’d flown 4,000 miles to discuss and each connected to the staffer or Congress Member sitting across the table in its own way. Sharing your story is sometimes all you can to do to stand up for what you and your industry need, young fishermen. So don’t be afraid to trade out your slickers for a blazer once in a while. This work is equally important and we can’t keep fishing without it.
Jamie is a fifth-generation fisherman from Dillingham, Alaska.
Fishermen, pilots, and a noisy librarian raised her at the family set-net operation on Ekuk beach.
She graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a degree in journalism and public
communication. Then spent a year building Senator Dan Sullivan’s new front office and internship
program, before returning to Bristol Bay with the salmon run. And that’s where you’ll find her, each
summer for the rest of her life.
Fellowship Application Deadline Extended to March 7th and We have added another awesome partner organization.
We have extended our deadline for applications until Wednesday, March 7th! Plus, we’ve added another awesome partner organization. Join Ecotrust for the opportunity to coordinate an Anchorage-based “Know Your Fisherman” fair and support other seafood business/markets activities. This fellowship is focused on strengthening connections between seafood producers and local seafood consumers. For more information, to apply today, and for other fellowship opportunities click here: https://www.akyoungfishermen.org/20182019-fellowship-opportunities
AMCC is thrilled to be partnering with five incredible host organizations across coastal Alaska for our 2018-2019 Fishing Fellows Program!
Check out our current list of fellowship projects here.
Consider applying for one yourself or share these opportunities with a young fisherman in your life.
The deadline to apply February 28, 2018!
Michelle Ridgway served on the Alaska Marine Conservation Council board of directors from 1995 to 2001. She brought tremendous integrity, energy, and warmth to our work and our family of coastal Alaskans committed to community-based conservation. Michelle gave generously to AMCC, to marine conservation overall, and to the people whose ways of life are closely intertwined with the ocean. Perhaps the most important beneficiaries of Michelle’s single-mindedness were the youth who were inspired by her zest for life and learning, the children who would need to be equipped to carry on the job of care-taking the ocean into the future. Michelle was a force of life. She was an ocean explorer, an invincible advocate, and a beautiful writer and speaker. She was happiest underwater in a wetsuit or piloting a research submarine, being part of the ocean. But she was also a fierce voice in the policy arena promoting sustainable fisheries, protecting clean water, and safeguarding living seafloor habitats. She used her marine ecology acumen to scrutinize decisions that most others at the table considered from narrower perspectives.
We are ever grateful to Michelle’s dedication to conservation
and the spirit that she brought to our collective efforts.
I was lucky to have served with Michelle on AMCC’s board in its early years. I was constantly in awe of her positive energy and enthusiasm for our work—and for everything that had to do with marine science and conservation. Michelle made things happen. One fond memory I have is from a board meeting in Sitka during the spring herring spawn. Michelle (of course) had friends with boats, and soon we were all on the water collecting and eating roe on spruce boughs. It was a celebratory time, a spontaneous outing, during which we could all appreciate the values of coastal Alaska we were working to protect. I’ve seen little of Michelle in recent years but continued to admire her deep commitment to and involvement in conducting science, communicating science, and—perhaps especially—working with young people to share her love for science, exploration, and the providing ocean.
— Nancy Lord
I had the honor of assisting Michelle at the Nuniaq Marine Science Camp in Old Harbor. We spent a week together, sleeping in a wall tent, leading children in a range of science activities which culminated in “deep sea exploration” with the launching of an ROV to view what lies beneath the ocean. Thanks to Kodiak’s Mark Blakeslee, who supplied the “Phantom HD2,” every child had the opportunity to operate the ROV. Michelle made us all scientists and near the end of camp all the children worked late into the night to catalog the species we encountered and the habitat where we found them. Not a moment was wasted — we were all scientists on a very important mission and Michelle did not let us forget that.
Michelle may not have lived a long life, but she lived life more fully than many who live to a ripe old age. She lived with zest, passion, commitment, and unflagging energy.
— Diana DeFazio
Michelle was an amazing marine biologist. Her favorite activities, other than exploring the world’s oceans and discovering their secrets, were sailing those oceans and teaching coastal children how to discover those secrets too.
… and needless to say, she was an awesome and true friend. She had done so much and survived so much, that I always thought I would see her again. Whenever we would depart each other’s company, for our “normal lives,” I would have this fleeting vision of us in our 70’s and 80’s laughing and looking back on all that we had done, filling in the details of adventures … no embellishments required.
— Bob Mikol
Michelle was an invaluable mentor to Kodiak’s small boat jig fleet during her tenure on the Advisory Panel to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. She listened to the fishermen and provided guidance to fleet members unfamiliar with the difficult Council process. Her support was heart felt and genuine and her enthusiasm was contagious. With Michelle’s encouragement those fishermen persistently attended every meeting and saw the action through to the end— successfully carving out a little of the federal Pacific cod fishery for the jig fleet, complete with room to grow.
— Theresa Peterson
Michelle was both fierce and fearless in defending Alaska’s marine life and life ways. I always thought of her as Alaska’s own ocean amazon. She inspired and challenged us all to do more.
I remember her telling me about some project samples she was working on, from around Kodiak, I think. She was totally focused and excited about the results when she casually mentioned she almost did not get the samples. When pressed she said it was at the end of the day when some sea lions showed up and decided to take a closer look. They kept coming up to her – curious or aggressive, maybe both. That’s when I realized she had been diving, near dark, among sea lions, in cold water – alone. Apparently this wasn’t remarkable enough for her to even mention. Absolutely fearless both in water and out.
— Nevette Bowen
Michelle came to AMCC right after the group was formed. She brought science credibility and a new wave of enthusiasm. What strikes me is how young we all were. When Michelle came on board were all in our early 30s working on some really big policy issues — ‘96 Magnuson Act reauthorization, ending wasteful by catch and discards, American Fisheries Act pollock rationalization, and others.
Michelle was a scientist, but she had passion and would take risks. I remember her at a Homer AMCC board meeting holding court for first time admirers. Everyone was instantly attracted to her. She was telling us all about her underwater dare-devil exploits. She played hockey with the boys and rode in a submarine. What more can I say. We were friends for life!
Michelle was savvy politically and new what it takes to get things done. She was a scientist with an edge. She must have felt like a lone wolf on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Advisory Panel on many issues — like calling out the importance of habitat protections for special areas. She was tireless in advocating for clean water in Southeast Alaska as she battled the cruise ship industry lobby.
I spoke to Michelle a couple weeks before she passed away. She was worried about the warming ocean and cod declines. She made a comment about us on the NPFMC being slow in response. And we talked about hockey.
— Buck Laukitis
Local Tanner crab vessels steamed out of Kodiak and Old Harbor on January 18th, with high hopes for a successful crab season. We always leave that way, full of hope. Why else would we keep going out?
The winter Tanner crab fishery is somewhat unique in that it was designed with input from the community-based fleet. Fishermen wanted managers to factor in safety, equity, and conservation into how the fishery operates.
One way managers do this is by using the weather to dictate openings. If the daily weather update for the fishing grounds includes a gale warning, managers delay the fishery for 24 hours. Doing so provides for greater safety and equity in the fishery, as it is dangerous for smaller vessels to travel in rough weather with crab gear on their decks. While it may be an uncomfortable ride for an 80-foot vessel carrying 20 heavy crab pots out to the grounds, it is rarely life threatening. However, for a 42-foot shallow draft seiner, like our boat, it is life threatening and we would have to stay in town. Thus, without the weather stand down, the fishery could be harvested with by a handful of larger boats while the rest of the fleet is tied to the docks. Working together, the fishermen came up with a solution. This year, the season was delayed for three days due to gale winds clocked at up to 106 knots.
The fishery was also designed with input by fishermen to have a minimal impact on Tanner crab stocks. Crab pots can only be hauled from 8:00 in the morning until 6:00 at night, thereby reducing the mortality of discarded crab—those that are undersized or female. Minimizing the number of times a pot is hauled and therefore how often crab are handled reduces stress on the resource. The daylight-only requirement limits the exposure of discarded crab to colder temperatures in the night. Vessels are also limited to 20 pots, depending on the total allowable catch of crab, which serves to both minimize the impact of the gear on the crab and level the playing field. When the allowable harvest goes up, so does the number of pots the fishermen can use. When the total allowable catch is under 2 million pounds, the limit is 20 pots; as that catch rises, the number of pots allowed stair-steps all the way to 60 pots (when the allowable catch is over 5 million pounds. This year the total allowable catch for the Kodiak Island district is 400,000 pounds, and after a four-year closure due to low crab abundance, fishermen are supportive of the limit and just happy to be fishing.
In a town like Kodiak, which is sustained by fishing, there are few opportunities to make a living other than commercial fishing. As community-based fishermen dependent on the health of the fisheries resource to make a living, many fishermen advocate in the fisheries policy arena in support of sustainable fisheries and opportunities for the next generation. We work hard to share both our experience and knowledge of the industry with management bodies like the Alaska Board of Fish and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Both of these bodies are set up to provide stakeholder input, and policy makers value the contribution of the fishermen to inform decisions. This process, coupled with the influence of strong science, has led to the world-class, sustainable fisheries that are found throughout Alaskan waters. I’m proud to call this state and Kodiak Island my home, and will continue to advocate for policies that sustain the stocks and provide other families the opportunity to make a living from the sea.