Another Big Agenda for the North Pacific Council
Summer fishing season is winding down so it’s time for meeting season to pick up! The North Pacific Fishery Management Council holds their meeting in Anchorage October 6-14 at the Hilton. As always, there are a number of issues of importance to fishermen, fishing communities, and the marine ecosystem. Gulf of Alaska trawl bycatch management/catch shares, the observer program and Bering Sea ecosystem top our list of things to watch at this meeting. The schedule can be found here, and the full agenda can be found here. All discussion papers are available via the agenda. Keep reading for a quick look at what AMCC is tracking this meeting and more information about how to participate!
Observer Program: Under the new restructured observer program which went into effect in 2013, the Council reviews the annual deployment plan for the following year. At the October meeting they’ll review the proposed 2015 deployment plan which outlines how the National Marine Fisheries Service intends to deploy observer to vessels fishing in the North Pacific in 2015. There are some significant changes recommended which include moving all small fixed gear boats (40 feet-57.5 feet), into the trip selection category – all vessels will now have observers deployed on a trip by trip basis. Exemptions to carrying observers will only be issued to vessels in the small vessel category that do not have sufficient life raft capacity to carry an observer, or are participating in Electronic Monitoring pilot projects. For 2015, NMFS is proposing to increase coverage on the large vessel category (all trawl vessels and fixed gear vessels above 57.5 feet) to 24% for 2015. Smaller vessels will be covered at a rate of 12%.
Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management (aka catch shares or rationalization): The Council is continuing to look at changes to the current management system in the Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries to provide the fleet with “tools” to adjust how and when they fish in order to reduce bycatch. At this meeting the Council will review an analysis of their framework proposal for the catch share program, and may move forward with outlining alternatives (or options) for a formal analysis. AMCC has two primary focuses on this issue. First, is ensuring that the catch share program delivers on the promise to reduce bycatch, and doesn’t just provide tools for the trawl fleet to adapt to the current limits. We’re asking the Council to include meaningful reductions from the current Chinook salmon and halibut bycatch limits as part of the program. Our other focus is making sure that fishing communities are not negatively impacted by the catch share program. We’re working on this with the Gulf of Alaska Coastal Communities Coalition (GOACCC) and other community leaders in the Western and Central Gulf of Alaska. With this group we’re advocating for a variety of community protections, including consolidation limits, protections for crew and others. The central component of this work is a direct allocation of quota to the fishing community via a Community Fishing Association (CFA). The Council will receive an analysis of our proposal for a CFA at the October meeting, and will decide whether or not to include a CFA in their program structure. A CFA will provide a mechanism to anchor quota in the community, support new generations of fishermen and crew and amplify community benefits. Learn more and view the CFA Proposal.
Bering Sea Ecosystem Planning: At the October meeting the Council will discuss ecosystem planning and a Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP) for the Bering Sea. They’ll hold a public hearing on the Bering Sea FEP on Thursday, October 9 from 5:30-7. The Council is contemplating how a Bering Sea FEP could add value to the current fishery management plan. AMCC sees this as a valuable opportunity to move forward in our fishery management model and formalize management from an ecosystem, rather than single species perspective.
How to Participate
Attend the Council meeting or listen online: The Council takes public comment on every agenda item. The meeting starts Oct. 6 and runs through Oct. 14 at the Anchorage Hilton downtown. You can also listen to the Council meeting streaming on-line at: https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/october2014/
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. By donating and becoming a member, you play an essential role in advancing sustainable fisheries policy in Alaska. Help support our work by making a gift today.