1st Meeting of NPFMC Salmon Bycatch Committee Set

Image: North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

A new Salmon Bycatch Committee formed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is set to hold its first meeting on Monday, Nov. 28.

Council members Andy Mezirow, owner of Gray Light Fisheries in Seward, and Rachel Baker, deputy director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), were named as co-chairs.

Others appointed to the council’s task force include Ruth Christiansen, United Catcher Boats; Oscar Evon Coastal, Coastal Villages Region Fund; Serena Fitka, Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association; Jennifer Hooper, Association of Village Council Presidents; Mellisa Johnson, Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Tribal Consortium; Stephanie Madsen, At-Sea Processors Association; Elizabeth Reed, Westward Seafoods; Steve Ricci, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp; Kevin Whitworth, Kuskokwim River Inter-tribal Fish Commission; and Mike Williams Sr., Akiak.

The council said the November meeting offers an opportunity for committee introductions, a review of a drafty terms of reference for the committee, a review and recommendations on the council staff discussion paper on chum salmon bycatch and, if possible, a review of the state of Alaska Bycatch Taskforce recommendations on salmon.

Meanwhile, the 11-member Alaska Bycatch Review Task Force formed by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy was holding meetings through mid-November with plans to get its report to the governor by month’s end.

The task force was directed by the governor in January to determine what impacts bycatch has on fisheries, to recommend policies informed by a better understanding of the issue of bycatch of high-value Alaska fishery resources and to ensure that state agencies are leveraging available resources to better understand bycatch issues.

The demise of the salmon resource in the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers has hit hard on small boat fishermen who depend particularly on income from the commercial harvest of chum salmon. The low runs of chum salmon have forced ADF&G to shut down commercial fisheries, as well as subsistence fisheries in that area of western Alaska.

Debate continues on the impact of thousands of salmon caught as bycatch by trawlers in groundfish fisheries, as federal and state fisheries managers continue to research the issue, but have not lowered the limit on bycatch of salmon in groundfish fisheries.