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Every Fish Counts: Preparing For the April NPFMC Meeting

Posted March 27, 2024


The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) is meeting April 1-9, 2024 online and in person in Anchorage. You can find the meeting schedule and agenda here and written comments are due Friday, March 29 at 12:00 pm AKT.


AMCC will be there to continue our advocacy to meaningfully reduce salmon bycatch in Bering Sea groundfish fisheries and weigh in on advancing critical research priorities for the years ahead. These issues correspond to agenda items: (C2) Salmon Bycatch and (D1) Research Priorities. This blog post explains a bit more about each issue and why we consider them priorities. 


Agenda item (C2):  Salmon Bycatch


Background:

The Bering Sea is undergoing rapid ecological and climatological shifts, and chum salmon returns to Western Alaska have dropped below previous historical lows, leading to commercial, sport and subsistence fishery closures. Meanwhile, chum salmon are being caught as bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery, which does not have a chum salmon limit, and chum and Chinook stocks have declined to crisis levels for communities along the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers and throughout the Bering Strait. Some NPFMC members have agreed this is a humanitarian crisis. 


What’s happening at this meeting:

The Council will review the preliminary Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) which evaluate the potential environmental, economic and social impacts that could result from proposed alternatives to minimize chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. The Council will also review a genetic stock of origin report of Chinook salmon and chum salmon bycatch in both the 2023 Bering Sea pollock and 2023 GOA Chinook salmon fisheries. Finally, the Council will review Incentive Plan Agreement (IPA) written reports with specific information on chum salmon avoidance measures and actions taken in 2023. The two primary decision points under this agenda item before the Council in April are to determine if the Council wishes to modify or refine proposed alternatives and how or if the Council wishes to move this action forward.  


What AMCC is advocating and why:

Considering the ecological volatility and profound interconnectedness in the Bering Sea ecosystem, AMCC believes managing and mitigating the human activities impacting these stocks is critical. Currently, chum bycatch in the Bering Sea Pollock fishery is essentially unmanaged, as there is currently no limit on, or regulatory means of minimizing, chum interceptions. AMCC is advocating for timely and meaningful action to reduce chum salmon bycatch, and provide for meaningful, regulatory limits and management mechanisms. Specifically at this meeting, AMCC will be advocating for additional information to be included in both the DEIS and SIA documents to ensure the suite of alternatives under consideration provide meaningful reductions in salmon bycatch. 


Agenda item (D1):  Research Priorities 


Background:

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) requires that regional fishery management councils develop “multi-year research priorities for fisheries, fisheries interactions, habitats, and other areas of research that are necessary for management purposes”. This includes research to support fishery management plans and associated regulations for fisheries requiring conservation and management to prevent overfishing and rebuild depleted fish stocks.


What’s happening at this meeting: 

The Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) that advises the NPFMC will recommend research priorities for the next 5 years. The Council will prioritize critical ongoing monitoring research as well as a Top Ten list of targeted research needs that are emphasized to encourage potential funding opportunities and to stress their importance. The Council reviews its research priorities every three years.   


What AMCC is advocating and why:

AMCC will be advocating for a weighted list of high priority research projects that includes those to address subsistence reliance on marine resources, the impacts of mobile gear on crab and benthic habitat, the effects of fisheries management policies on communities over time and more.  


Photo Courtesy of Theresa Peterson

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