The Alaska Bycatch Review Task Force has delivered its recommendations to the state on research, state engagement and management priorities on tackling the subject of thousands of fish caught incidentally to directed fisheries.
In its final report to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the task force said that while bycatch can and should be reduced, it can’t be completely eliminated without significant economic consequences. The report recommended continuous work to reduce bycatch through research, implementation of effective management measures and public engagement.
As the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council has heard frequently in testimony, any action taken to change management of one fishery always has some impact on other vessels targeting other fisheries in the same area.
Balancing the odds of assisting one fishery in need must always take into consideration possible detrimental impacts such action may have on other fisheries and the environment.
General recommendations ranged from developing state bycatch research priorities with input from many stakeholders to the state developing an inclusive process for seeking partners to fund the necessary research.
To update assumed discard mortality rates the task force recommended studies to inform stock assessments and other management measures that are outdated and may not reflect current industry technology and handling practices. Data are also needed to determine the shifts in patterns with the changing climate, as both salmon and crab have experienced shifting distribution patterns, the report stated.
It is critical to understand these patterns, both temporally and spatially, to ensure the best information is being used when developing bycatch mitigation measures, according to the report.
Recommendations for the impact of struggling Western Alaska salmon populations included tagging immature chum salmon in the North Pacific Ocean to help to better understand their destination, timing and maturity.
The report also called for improvements to be made in the ability to assess age and specifically stock-specific age of Chinook and chum salmon caught in any marine fisheries.
The complete report is online at https://gov.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/Alaska-Bycatch-Review-Task-Force.pdf.