The North Pacific Fishery Management Council meets in Anchorage in just a couple of weeks for their April meeting. The meeting week kicks off with the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) meeting on Monday, April 6 and the Advisory Panel starts Tuesday, April 7. The Council itself starts up Wed., April 8 and runs through April 13. The big item on this agenda is final action on Bering Sea salmon bycatch, with a focus on reducing both chum and Chinook salmon bycatch. With Chinook salmon populations in severe decline throughout Western Alaska, and complete closures of even the subsistence fisheries on the Yukon River, it’s critical that the Council takes meaningful action to reduce bycatch at this time. The Council will also take final action on allowing longline pot fishing for sablefish in the Gulf of Alaska and will discuss ecosystem-based management in the Bering Sea.
*Comments on all agenda items are due by 5pm on Tuesday, March 31 – email to firstname.lastname@example.org (See below for more details about the issues and how to comment).
Bering Sea Salmon Bycatch
Final action on salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery is certainly the headlining act at the April Council meeting. The action before the Council considers changes to chum salmon bycatch reduction measures to provide for greater reduction of chum salmon bycatch and better integration of chum and Chinook salmon bycatch measures. Given the disastrously low Chinook salmon runs in Western Alaska, Chinook salmon bycatch is the major focus of this action. While caps on Chinook salmon bycatch have been in place since 2011, the rapid and dramatic declines in Chinook salmon populations necessitates changes to these caps and management measures to respond to the current crisis. The options (Alternatives) which the Council is considering include:
Alternative 2: Combining Chinook and chum salmon bycatch measures to ensure that chum bycatch reduction efforts do not increase Chinook salmon bycatch;
Alternative 3: Requiring changes to the Incentive Plan Agreements to achieve greater bycatch reduction. Options include penalizing vessels with consistently high bycatch, requiring use of salmon excluders, and specific changes to operation of the plans.
Alternative 4: Changing the start and/or end dates of the pollock fishing season and distribution of pollock quota between seasons to minimize bycatch;
Alternative 5: Reducing the performance standard (currently 47,591 Chinook salmon) and possibly also the hard cap (currently 60,000) for Chinook salmon bycatch by 25% – 60% in times of low abundance of Western Alaska Chinook salmon stocks.
To ensure that Chinook salmon bycatch is reduced in times of low abundance, and to ensure that when subsistence fisheries are closed the pollock fishery bycatch is greatly reduced as well, it is critical that the Council takes final action at this meeting and puts new regulations into effect quickly. We join with many Western Alaska groups in asking the Council to reduce the overall cap and performance cap for Chinook salmon bycatch by the maximum under consideration (60%) in times of low salmon abundance (Alternative 5, option 2, with the suboption to apply the 60% reduction to the overall hard cap). Alternative 2 and Alternative 3, options 1-5, should be selected as well.
Gulf of Alaska Sablefish Longline Pots
Also on the docket for the April Council meeting are measures to allow fishermen to use longline pots to harvest sablefish in the Gulf of Alaska with a goal of reducing whale predation. The Council will take final action on an amendment that would allow the use of pot longline gear by Gulf sablefish operations fishing IFQs. In addition to the reducing the fishery impact of whale predation on longline gear, the Council is also considering ways to reduce gear conflicts between pot and longline fishermen harvesting in the same area.
Amid the constant bustle of management issues, the Council is also doing some proactive thinking to further their work on ecosystem-based management. At the April meeting, the Council will hear a report from the Ecosystem Committee and continue to discuss the utility of undertaking a Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) for the Bering Sea. An FEP provides an opportunity for the Council to look at fisheries management in a more holistic context, rather than in the single-species context under which current management occurs. AMCC is actively engaged in this work and is encouraging the Council to move forward with an FEP for the Bering Sea.
How to Comment:
Send written comments by 5pm on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 to email@example.com or North Pacific Fishery Management Council 605 West 4th Ave, Suite 306 Anchorage, AK 99501 Fax: (907) 271-2817 Include your name, affiliation, and date, and identify the agenda item in the subject line.
Provide testimony: The Council takes testimony on every agenda item. The meeting starts April 6 and runs through April 13 at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel. To testify in person, sign up at the Council meeting before public comment on that agenda item begins. View the schedule here.
Other Ways to Participate:
Listen online: Visit https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/april2015 for live broadcast of the Council meeting.
Support AMCC’s work on these important issues: AMCC has staff at every Council meeting, advocating for the health of our marine ecosystems and fishing communities. Donations from members like you are essential to maintaining our role at the Council. Help support our work by investing in healthy oceans and coastal communities today: donate now.
For More Information
The Council posts analyses, public comments, motions and other documents linked from their agenda. Just scroll down to the agenda item you’re interested in. For the full Council agenda, schedule, and more on the April meeting, visit: www.npfmc.org/upcoming-council-meetings