NOAA Report on Killer Whale Bycatch Prompts Call for Immediate Action 

Rep. Mary Peltola (D-AK). Photo: U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, is calling on NOAA Fisheries to end the status quo on action to prevent killer whales from being caught up in groundfish trawl gear in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. 

On Oct. 26, Peltola released a statement saying she has asked NOAA Fisheries to release conclusions of an analysis of the 10 killer whales caught in trawl nets this year. 

Killer whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which requires vessel owners and operators to report to NOAA Fisheries all incidental mortalities and injuries of marine mammals that occur during commercial fishing and survey operations. 

Peltola said she’s working collaboratively with stakeholders, fisheries managers and user groups to develop innovative bycatch solutions at every level, from Congress down to individual vessels. 

NOAA Fisheries announced in September that it was analyzing data collected from 10 killer whales caught incidentally in 2023 by Bering Sea and Aleutian Island groundfish trawl harvesters. NOAA said such analysis typically takes many months to complete. 

The incidents involved catcher processors vessels; including nine incidental catches by non-pelagic gear and one incidental catch by pelagic trawl gear, all between May and September, and ranged in geographic location by more than 600 nautical miles. 

NOAA Fisheries said it’s analyzing collected data to determine the cause of injury or death in the incidents.