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.
I want to tell you about Reise and Harmony Wayner. This brother and sister grew up near the end of the Aleutian chain in Unalaska. Their backyard was a landscape of emerald green hills, streams filled with wild salmon, and a rich ocean filled with a diversity of marine life.
Taught by their parents, Rhonda and Paul, this generation of Wayners continues the tradition of fishing at their family’s setnet site in Bristol Bay every summer. They have developed a strong sense of respect for the natural resources that support their family and other families like theirs.
Reise, Harmony, and other young fishermen and subsistence leaders from Sitka to Shaktoolik are shaping the future of coastal communities in Alaska. They understand that healthy fisheries are vital to the future of Alaska. And they are concerned about what the alarming pace of environmental change, unsettling national politics, and Alaska’s ailing economy will mean for the future.
Your support is needed now more than ever by Alaska’s fishing communities and families. Alaska Marine Conservation Council helps ensure the protection of Alaska’s marine resources for this and future generations. Please consider making a gift today.
Thanks to you, here’s a sampling of what we have accomplished in 2016:
- Grown the Alaska Young Fishermen’s Network and expanded its impact to help nurture the next generation of coastal community leaders;
- Catalyzed movement towards practical and informed solutions to keep fishing opportunities in our coastal communities;
- Fostered smart solutions to bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea that consider the needs of local communities and long-term conservation;
- Built a national coalition of small-scale fishermen ready to defend the Magnuson-Stevens Act, our nation’s “fish bill;”
- Advanced an ecosystem-based approach to management in the North Pacific—one that addresses fishing impacts, supports inclusive decision-making and considers the effects of climate change;
- Supported research, action, and engagement on the impacts of ocean acidification; and
- Connected more than 600 Alaska seafood consumers with community fishermen through Catch of the Season, our thriving community supported fishery.
None of us know how the new administration’s actions and policies will impact our marine ecosystems. But one thing is certain. We must remain vigilant.
With your support, AMCC will—as we have for over 20 years—continue to advocate on critical issues today, tomorrow and for the next 20 years. We are in this for the long haul.
We have some ambitious goals for 2017:
- Remain a steadfast and effective voice for regional and national fisheries policy that prioritizes conservation, communities, and local economies while considering the larger ecosystem and long-term changes;
- Carry out cutting-edge social science research to generate knowledge and smart solutions to the “graying of the fleet” and support the well-being of coastal communities;
- Bring our ocean acidification educational kiosk to new communities in southeast Alaska and defend important investments in ocean acidification research; and
- Harness the power of the local foods movement and social enterprise to expand the number of fishermen and consumers participating in AMCC’s community supported fishery.
Please stand with AMCC by making a gift now. It matters more than ever to Alaskans like Reise and Harmony Wayner and families in communities like theirs.
Thank you and happy holidays to you and yours.
AMCC seeks a science consultant with expertise in population dynamics modeling, fisheries stock assessment, and fisheries management strategy evaluation to analyze two management actions being developed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council). A successful applicant will have a:
- PhD in fisheries science, with a specialization in fisheries population dynamics modeling, fisheries stock assessment, and fisheries management strategy evaluation;
- A background in fisheries management and policy, with preference for experience with the Council and IPHC processes;
Sufficient time and capacity to dedicate to project in the timeframe identified and ability to attend the Workgroup workshop on September 12 (in Seattle);
- An appreciation for the social, biological, and economic dimensions of fisheries management.
All proposals shall be submitted as soon as possible but no later than July 31, 2016 (note deadline was extended from July 15th). Proposals should be submitted via email to Shannon Carroll (email@example.com).
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
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is holding its June meeting in Kodiak, where it will be once again be reviewing the Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management Program. The long-term health of Gulf communities depends on a management plan that protects the role of independent, community-based fishermen, and the health of all Gulf fisheries. AMCC believes the Gulf Trawl Bycatch Management Program should allow for viable entry opportunities, community protections, and meaningful reductions to bycatch. Additional information about the program is available through the Council’s agenda.
If you wish to comment on the management plan, the deadline for written comments is 5:00 pm (AST) on Tuesday, May 31. Comments should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read on for full details…
Recognizing the importance of minimizing Chinook and halibut bycatch, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) has recently taken action to set or lower limits on bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska. At the same time, the Council has also taken the position that the current management structure does not provide the trawl fleet with the tools necessary to meet existing bycatch reductions, or further reduce bycatch beyond current levels.
As a result, the Council has been looking at implementing a new management program for the Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries. In addition to the status quo, the Council is currently considering three options (alternatives):
- Alternative 2 is a traditional catch share program that would allocate pollock and cod as target species, and halibut and Chinook as bycatch to harvester-processor cooperatives, based on the qualifying catch history of the trawl members’ LLP licenses. Allocated fishing privileges would be transferable, somewhat similar to the halibut IFQ fishery.
- Alternative 3 would annually allocate halibut and Chinook bycatch to harvester-processor cooperatives, based on equal shares, some measure of dependency and engagement in the fishery, or some combination of the two. This bycatch quota could be traded within a cooperative, but is not transferable without also selling the vessel or license.
- Alternative 4 would allocate a specified percentage of quota to a Community Fishing Association (CFA). Quota allocated to the community is then used to address community goals of keeping a local fleet, providing a viable point of entry for new entrants, equitable crew compensation, and vessel/owner residency.
The Council Needs to Hear From You
During the June meeting in Kodiak, the Council will be looking for community input on the Gulf Trawl Bycatch Management Program. Hearing from community members about what they would like to see in the new program will go a long way in ensuring that community protections, bycatch reductions, and future access measures are included in the final action.
Written Comment: If you wish to comment, the deadline for written comments is 5:00 pm (AST) on Tuesday, May 31. Comments should be emailed to email@example.com.
Public Testimony: There will be two opportunities to testify at the June Council meeting:
- The Advisory Panel will begin hearing the GOA Trawl Bycatch Management Program agenda item on the afternoon of Thursday, June 9th. The Advisory Panel will be meeting in the Elks Lodge.
- The Council will begin hearing the same issue on the morning of Saturday, June 11. The Council will be meeting in the Pavilion Room of the Convention Center.
If you’d like more information on submitting written comments or offering public testimony, contact Shannon Carroll, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Shannon Carroll, Fisheries Policy Director
Last June, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) promised to take further action on halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea. Over the course of the past several meetings, the Council has followed through on that promise, developing a draft strategic plan for halibut issues, strategies for improved communication with the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), and a framework for an abundance-based halibut bycatch policy.
During the April Council meeting in Anchorage, the Council voted to continue evaluating an abundance-based approach to halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea. This followed a presentation by the abundance-based bycatch workgroup—which consists of Council, National Marine Fisheries Service, and IPHC staff—as well as testimony by halibut stakeholders, including AMCC. The workgroup’s current focus is determining an index for halibut abundance that can, among other things, be used to effectively capture the impact of bycatch removals on Bering Sea halibut. The workgroup will continue analyzing various indicators used to measure halibut abundance and will be holding a public workshop sometime in August. Abundance-based halibut management will likely be on the agenda again in October.
AMCC appreciates the Council and workgroup’s continued effort find a long-term solution to halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea. A robust, scientifically-sound abundance index is a key step in this process. We look forward to continuing to providing input on this effort.
More on the full range of issues covered in the April meeting can be found in the Council’s newsletter.
The next NPFMC meeting will be held June 6-14 in Kodiak. At that time, the Council will be hearing community and stakeholder testimony on the the Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management program.
For more information on Council actions and upcoming meetings, visit npfmc.org.
By: Shannon Carroll, Fisheries Policy Director
Here is the latest news for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s work on halibut bycatch.
Halibut Management Framework
Since June 2015, The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) has been working to develop a Halibut Bycatch Framework (Framework). The goal of the Framework is to serve as a strategic planning device for future halibut management actions along with improving and increasing communications with the International Halibut Commission (IPHC).
The Framework is often described as a “living document,” with the intention to continue refining and adjusting the document to fit ongoing Council needs. After receiving input from stakeholders, including AMCC, during the October and December Council meetings, the five halibut management objectives:
- Manage halibut bycatch in the groundfish fisheries and harvests in the commercial, guided and non-guided recreational, and subsistence fisheries consistent with the Council’s Magnuson-Stevens Act conservation objectives.
- Manage halibut bycatch to balance the objectives of directed users and bycatch users in both the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and the Gulf of Alaska (GOA).
- Pursue an abundance based approach to managing halibut bycatch and directed harvests in coordination with the IPHC.
- Provide for the sustained participation of historic participants and fishery dependent communities.
- Maintain monitoring and catch accounting programs for halibut users in the BSAI and GOA in order to provide the data necessary for management needs.
The Framework has also led to more formalized communication with the IPHC, including the formation of a Halibut Management Committee and likely development of a Joint Council/IPHC Committee that would meet on an annual basis. The Council will be reviewing the Framework again during the April Council meeting in Anchorage, so stay tuned for news regarding that review process.
Abundance-Based Halibut Bycatch Management in the Bering Sea
AMCC has been working with other halibut user groups to push for a halibut management structure that links both catch and bycatch limits to halibut abundance levels. This is in contrast to the existing structure, where bycatch limits are fixed, regardless of halibut abundance. An abundance-based management structure would help both the IPHC and Council better share the responsibility of halibut conservation. Currently, the IPHC manages only the directed fishery and cannot make reductions to bycatch limits during times of low abundance. Were the Council to adopt abundance-based management, it would have an additional tool to protect halibut stocks at periods of low abundance.
The Council has recognized the potential value of this approach and has formed an interagency workgroup comprised of staff from the Council, the IPHC, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. This workgroup has been tasked with developing alternative approaches to abundance-based management and will be providing advice to the Council during either the April or June Council meeting.
Stay tuned for more halibut bycatch updates following the April Council Meeting!
By: Hannah Heimbuch, Community Fisheries Organizer
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) met for its final meeting of 2015 in Anchorage this month, setting groundfish harvest numbers for the coming year, while also diving into a wide range of other topics. Bycatch, along with abundance- and ecosystem-based management, continued as major themes for the Council.
In other bycatch conversations, the Council reviewed a roadmap outlining the analytical process for the development of a Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management Program. After revising and adding to the range of alternatives under consideration in October, Council and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) staff produced a work plan which lays out proposed steps to develop a Draft Environmental Impact Study by the end of 2016. Throughout this ongoing bycatch management initiative, AMCC has advocated for measures built into the program that protect community access to fishing rights, and options for the continued reduction of bycatch. We appreciate and look forward to the analysis of the new alternative introduced by Commissioner Cotten which would only apportion Chinook salmon and halibut to voluntary inshore cooperatives based on their members vessels. This is a new and innovative approach to provide for a cooperative style management without allocating the target species and thus the associated fishing rights.
As the need for information and options around bycatch management continues to increase, the Council is also exploring the potential of abundance-based halibut bycatch limits. The Council voted to initiate a workgroup, collaborating with NMFS and the International Pacific Halibut Commission, to evaluate options for moving bycatch management away from fixed limits, and toward limits that fluctuate with abundance (much like harvest). AMCC supports a move toward a bycatch management system that is more responsive to both conservation needs and balance between sectors, particularly in times of low abundance. The Council also tasked the workgroup with evaluating bycatch of juvenile halibut in terms of their long-term potential spawning potential. This is another important consideration, recognizing the stock-wide impact of removing large numbers of juvenile halibut, as seen in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands groundfish fisheries.
Finally, the Council has also advanced the topic of ecosystem-based management after hearing staff reports and a discussion paper on a Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP). Going forward, Council staff is tasked with developing the core FEP, and taking steps toward forming a Bering Sea FEP team and plan for public outreach. The Council has long been a leader in implementing ecosystem-based fishery management measures into its fishery management policies and the FEP is an important step in furthering that tradition.
For more information on Council actions and upcoming meetings, visit npfmc.org.
By Hannah Heimbuch
It’s amazing what you can fit into three days. In the case of three Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AMCC) staff members this October, it was more than 6,000 miles, a half-day of lobbying training and several dozen meetings with congressional offices, agency leaders, and conservation partners in our nation’s capital.
This trip to Washington, D.C. was my first, and allowed me to witness firsthand what it looks like when diverse groups truly collaborate in pursuit of a better future. This is the promise I see in the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC).
Presenting as a unified voice on national fisheries policy, the FCC is made up of conservation-minded, community-based fishing organizations that have found common ground in their policy concerns, despite hailing from different corners of America’s coastline. At present, the FCC includes AMCC and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, both from Alaska; the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholder’s Alliance, from Texas; and the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, both calling New England home.
For a few short, busy days, we joined our partners from the FCC to visit House and Senate offices on Capitol Hill. We were there to introduce ourselves to decision makers from coastal states across the country. Collectively, we spoke to agency leaders and congressional staffers, covering a variety of policy issues important to our small boat fleets: bycatch reduction, electronic/at-sea monitoring, community access to local fisheries, and improved fisheries data collection, and a strengthened Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) reauthorization bill.
As House and Senate offices look at options for MSA reauthorization moving forward, the FCC believes it is vital that this important law uphold or enhance current standards of science-based, conservation-minded fisheries management, while also ensuring access for local communities. These essential measures guide the sustainability of our nation’s fish stocks and fishing communities.
In the bycatch realm, we shared important information about the halibut bycatch crisis occurring in the Bering Sea — from the massive removal of juvenile halibut by trawl vessels, to the precarious health of directed halibut fisheries coast-wide. The group reminded congressional delegates of the national importance of the halibut fishery, and of the bad precedent being set, with halibut bycatch becoming the priority use of halibut in the North Pacific.
Group members also voiced a need for progressive policies supporting robust at-sea or electronic monitoring, and cohesion of those practices across Council regions. Issues of insufficient data, major funding challenges, and ease of small-boat monitoring were important coalition-wide, including to small boat fleets in New England deeply concerned about excessive haddock bycatch.
Finally, we communicated the continued need to support local access to fisheries. The coalition shared the success stories and ongoing needs for those access rights by pointing out unique community solutions across the country, such as permit and quota banks, while also pushing for improved community access provisions in the reauthorized MSA.
During our Capital Hill visits, our coalition team divided up into two groups and managed to make 21 meetings with Senate and House staffers in a single day. We covered some significant ground — both under our feet and in our policy work — using our united voice to amplify these important issues. We were able to meet directly with two Alaskan delegates, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Representative Don Young. Sitting next to fellow fishermen and fisheries leaders from around the country, and speaking together for responsible policies, was a truly empowering experience.
It is AMCC’s hope that as we continue to advocate for federal policies that support a sustainable fishing future, we can offer that experience to more of our community fishermen, infusing voices from Alaska’s small boat fisheries into this national arena. We believe it’s particularly vital that young fishermen are given the opportunity to participate in this policy work, something I personally look forward to developing.
Those of us that hope to be fishing for the next 30 years — those of us that want to continue the tradition of fishing families and strong local fisheries — must help to guide the long-term vision of the federal policies that do and will shape management of our marine resources. We must demand robust science- and conservation-based standards that allow fisheries, communities and ecosystems to thrive together.
It was incredibly encouraging to see the FCC paving the way for more community voices — the young and veteran alike — to be heard in a meaningful and collaborative way at a national level. As I head back home to Alaska, it is with the knowledge that our local, regional and statewide work is united with this national conservation ethic, of which AMCC and its members should be proud.
The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) is a coalition of community-based, small-boat commercial fishing groups, representing more than 1,000 independent fishermen and business owners from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska, who share a commitment to the sustainable management of America’s fishery resources. The FCC was formed to strengthen and unify the individual voices of its member organizations, which are the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Cape Cod Fishermen’s Association, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, and the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. Together, we work to support thriving commercial fisheries in each of our local communities, while acting as strong stewards of the marine environments off our shores.
Nationally, this group of conservation-minded fishery organizations works together to advocate for small boat fleets in the federal policy arena. We find common ground between our fleets and the complex ecosystems they fish within. The coalition believes it is vital that America’s community-based fleets have a meaningful voice in national fishery decisions. We strive to bring our shared ethics of conservation and community-based fisheries to decision makers, and into the core of national fisheries policy.
Check out the Fishing Communities Coalition’s brand new website, fishingcommunitiescoalition.org, which features regular news updates on issues the FCC works on, including:
- Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization
- At-Sea and Electronic Monitoring
- Bycatch Reduction
- Permit Banks/Quota