By Shannon Carroll
This month, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) wrapped up its final meeting of 2016 by pulling the plug on the Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management Program. Citing an impasse in discussions between the State of Alaska and members of the trawl and processing sectors, the Council passed a motion tabling further action on the agenda item. The program, which has been under development for several years, was designed to provide groundfish fishermen with the “tools” to harvest target species while operating under reduced halibut and Chinook bycatch limits.
From the beginning of the Walker administration, the State of Alaska and the groundfish sector differed over the whether a catch share-type program was the right tool for the job. After a contentious meeting in Kodiak this past June, AMCC was optimistic that a middle ground – one that would bring greater stability to the groundfish sector while also addressing community concerns regarding past catch share programs – could be reached. Nonetheless, members of the Council likened the current impasse to being stuck on a sandbar, and in a 8-3 vote decided that it was better to take a step back from the proposed program.
Despite tabling the action, the Council initiated several discussion papers involving the Gulf of Alaska trawl fishery. These analyses will evaluate, among other things, modifying season start dates and sea lion closures in the groundfish trawl fishery, current protections and stock information for Tanner crab, and the hurdles to implementing abundance-based halibut bycatch management in the Gulf of Alaska. While AMCC sees value in these efforts, we remain hopeful that the Council will continue working towards a comprehensive management structure that fits the unique characteristics of the Gulf of Alaska.
Looking beyond the Gulf of Alaska trawl fishery, and into 2017, AMCC will continue to engage on issues at the Council that affect the sustainability of federal fisheries and impact the next generation of fishermen. At the February meeting in Seattle, the Council’s abundance-based halibut bycatch working group will be hosting a workshop to update and gather input on its effort to develop an abundance index for halibut. While this process has proven more complicated than we initially expected, AMCC continues to support moving towards a policy that establishes halibut bycatch caps based on the abundance of the stock. The Council will likely review the working group’s efforts during its April meeting in Anchorage. Also during the February meeting, the Council will hear recommendations from the Halibut/Sablefish IFQ Committee. These recommendations stem from the 20-year review of the Halibut/Sablefish IFQ program.
Finally, the Council will continue work on the Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP)—a tool that will hopefully lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the Bering Sea ecosystem and its relationship to Council management actions. The Council recently appointed members to the Bering Sea Ecosystem Team, which will be the lead on developing the FEP. The team is expected to report to the Ecosystem Committee in February, and to the Council in April.
AMCC continues to champion the Council’s efforts to implement ecosystem-based measures through the Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan. We greatly appreciate the work that has gone into the FEP development thus far and look forward to ensuring that the FEP includes defined ecosystem-level goals and measurable objectives and outcomes.
Shannon Carroll is AMCC’s Fisheries Policy Director. He can be reached at 907.277.5357 or via email.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 27, 2016
Shannon Carroll, Fisheries Policy Director
Alaska Marine Conservation Council
907.382.1590 // firstname.lastname@example.org
Jen Leahy, Communications Manager
Alaska Marine Conservation Council
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Peterson and Laukitis confirmed to North Pacific Fishery Management Council
Two long-time commercial fishermen from the Gulf of Alaska appointed
Anchorage, AK — Alaskans Theresa Peterson and Buck Laukitis were confirmed today by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to serve a three-year term on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council). Peterson, a Kodiak resident, will replace long time Council member Duncan Fields, also of Kodiak, who served three consecutive terms. Laukitis resides in Homer and replaces Dave Long of Wasilla.
“I am honored to serve on the Council and look forward to the opportunity to give back to a fishing industry that has provided so much for me and my family,” said Peterson. “Many of us here in Alaska today had a chance to get into the fishing industry; we stayed and raised our families in coastal communities throughout the state. I want the next generation of fishermen to have similar opportunities to commercial fish and work their way up to ownership. Small boat fishermen are the fabric of maritime communities around the state and their voices must be heard in the Council arena along with large scale fisheries.”
The Council is one of eight regional councils established by the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) to manage federal fisheries (3-200 miles from shore). The MSA is designed to encourage local level participation and representation through the regional council structure. The Council also works closely with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska Board of Fisheries to coordinate management program in state and federal waters.
The Council is made up of 11 voting members and four non-voting members. The 11 voting members include seven stakeholders that are familiar with the fishing industry, marine conservation, or both. Five of those seats are designated for Alaskans and are appointed by the governor. The selection is then confirmed by the commerce secretary. Peterson and Laukitis were Gov. Walker’s preferred candidates.
Peterson has participated in a variety of state and federal fisheries, including pot fishing, set-netting, seining, driftnetting, and long-lining, in addition to subsistence fisheries. She and her husband own and operate a small commercial boat and salmon set-net site in Kodiak. She has been a steadfast advocate for small-boat, independent fishing businesses, who many believe comprise the heart of Alaskan fishing communities.
Peterson is a multi-term member of the Council’s Advisory Panel, as well as an outreach coordinator for Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AMCC). As a member of the Advisory Panel, she works to improve participation of small scale and community sectors and encourages community members to engage in the process to influence policy making decisions which reflect Alaskan coastal community values.
“The Council process benefits from input from coastal community members who live with the outcome of the management decisions. I have long felt that small scale fishermen were the most underrepresented group in the Council arena and I am encouraged by an Alaskan administration that supports broad representation on the Council,” said Peterson.
Laukitis also has a long history of engagement in Alaskan fisheries. As a long-time commercial fisherman, he brings a direct understanding of the importance of sustainable fisheries management. He is the owner and operator of two fishing vessels that fish for salmon, halibut, and cod in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutians Islands. Fishing is a family business for Laukitis; his wife, two daughters, and son-in-law all work in the family fishing business.
Laukitis brings a comprehensive understanding of the federal fisheries management process. He served as vice president of AMCC’s board of directors for eight years, representing the organization at congressional hearings surrounding the reauthorization of the MSA in the mid-90s. Laukitis was also president of the Homer-based North Pacific Fisheries Association, where he represented the organization before the Council and International Pacific Halibut Commission on a wide range of issues.
“As the owner of two vessels and a nearly year-round fishing business, Buck understands what fishermen need to keep their vessels working and profitable. His experience in Alaskan fisheries and fisheries policy, as well as his commitment to the resource, make him highly qualified to serve on the Council,” said Kodiak commercial fisherman Darren Platt.
Founded in 1994, Alaska Marine Conservation Council is a community-based, nonprofit organization committed to protecting the long-term health of Alaska’s marine ecosystems and sustaining the working waterfronts of our state’s coastal communities. Our members include fishermen, subsistence harvesters, marine scientists, business owners, conservationists, families, and others who care deeply about Alaska’s oceans.
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.