Gulf of Alaska Bycatch Management Program

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) is in the process of developing a new management regime for the Gulf of Alaska trawl fishery that could likely take the form of a catch share program. As the current title suggests, the Gulf of Alaska (GoA) Trawl Bycatch Management Program is in response to a growing management concern: bycatch of critical species, particularly Chinook salmon and halibut in the Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries.

Catch share programs (also known as rationalization or limited access privilege programs) allocate a specific portion of the fishery resource to participants, thus ending the ‘race for fish.’ Catch share programs can therefore provide considerable tools for bycatch reduction, by allowing the fleet to slow fishing down and make better decisions about when and where to fish relevant to bycatch. While a catch share program may provide important tools to reduce bycatch, at the same time nearly 20 years of direct experience with catch share programs in Alaska demonstrates clearly how catch share programs can adversely impact fishing dependent coastal communities. The problems encountered in catch share programs in Alaska and around the world are widespread, well documented, and now predictable. They include absentee ownership of quota, fewer locally based vessels, high leasing fees, rapid vessel consolidation, consolidation of quota ownership, lower crew pay and job loss, and out-migration of fisheries based wealth and fishery access opportunities from communities.

A new catch share program for the GoA trawl fishery must be designed to avoid these know consequences for communities. The NPFMC is moving forward with a program design that offers opportunities for addressing some of these issues. One idea under analysis is the concept of a Community Fishing Association (CFA), which would be directly allocated fishing quota. This concept, proposed by Gulf of Alaska community members and groups including AMCC and the Gulf of Alaska Coastal Communities Coalition (GOAC3), would require that some portion of the quota be directly allocated to the Community Fishing Association, ensuring that a portion of the quota is anchored in the community in perpetuity and that future generations have a mechanism to enter the fishery.

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