By: Shannon Carroll, Fisheries Policy Director
Earlier this month, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) met in Kodiak for its third meeting of the year. Though the Council took up other issues, including a 10-year review the Bering Sea crab rationalization program, it devoted much of its time to the Gulf of Alaska trawl bycatch management program.
During the three days devoted to the issue, the Council heard from nearly 75 stakeholders. Testimony largely focused on community concerns regarding the proposed program. Trawl vessel owners and processors continued to stress the importance of the trawl fishery to Kodiak, and reiterated the need for tools that would allow them to reduce bycatch and harvest under-fished flatfish. Other stakeholders, including community members and salmon and halibut fishermen, highlighted the need for 100% observer coverage, entry opportunities, and protective measures to mitigate the kinds of community impacts associated with past catch share programs.
These impacts include excessive consolidation, out-migration of wealth and access, and the loss of support services. The Council also received a presentation on the Community Fishing Association (CFA) concept by AMCC staff and other community members.
At the conclusion of public testimony, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner, Sam Cotten, made a motion to establish three overarching goals for the program: (1) bycatch management, (2) increased groundfish utilization, and (3) maintaining opportunities to enter the fishery by—potentially—limiting any groundfish harvest privileges that might be allocated. The purpose of the motion, according to Commissioner Cotten, was to ensure that access to the fishery remains a top priority in the development of the new program. Permanently allocating a public resource to current participants, he noted, effectively locks out the next generation and benefits larger corporations with access to the most capital.
After a lengthy discussion, and one amendment, the Council passed Commissioner Cotten’s motion. The Council also passed a motion adopting the stakeholder-proposed changes to the CFA alternative. These changes included a more defined board governance structure, community eligibility definition, and specific goals and objectives.
The Council will next review the program during its December meeting in Anchorage.
For more info on Gulf of Alaska trawl bycatch management:
The Council bid Duncan Fields farewell
It was fitting that Duncan’s last meeting was held in his hometown of Kodiak. In his nine years on the Council, Duncan has been a tireless advocate for Alaska’s coastal communities and small boat fishermen. We at AMCC will certainly miss him.
Read more here: Fields’ voice never louder as he ends nine-year council run