The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is set to hear reports on shellfish stocks and adopt acceptable biological catch limits and overfishing limits during its Oct. 6-11 meeting in Anchorage.
King crab and snow crab are among the major issues up for discussion, with final action still months off, as Bering Sea crabbers face a second year of multi-million-dollar loses due to the demise of Bristol Bay red king crab as well as snow crab.
The October meeting will be held virtually and in person at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Anchorage. The Zoom link is https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81451130091 and the meeting ID is 814 5113 0091.
The council is also slated to take final action on Pacific cod small boat access, to provide greater stability for participants with smaller than 60-foot hook-and-line or pot boats to harvest Pacific cod from the Bering Sea/Aleutian Island Pacific cod jig sector’s allocation.
Also up for final action are management measures that would allow an electronic monitoring (EM) system to supplement existing observer coverage on Pollock catcher vessels using pelagic trawl gear and tender vessels, delivering to processing plants in the Gulf of Alaska and in the Bering Sea.
The trawl EM program is designed to use EM for compliance monitoring, meaning that EM video does not directly feed into catch accounting or stock assessments. Instead, catch accounting uses industry reported data (verified through EM) and data collected by shoreside observers.
The council said that maximized retention ensures that unsorted catch will be delivered and available to be sampled by shoreside observers, allowing for non-biased data to be collected at the trip level by shoreside observers at the processing plant.
Written comments on these and other issues are already posted online at https://meetings.npfmc.org/Meeting/Details/2946
The council has already received over two dozen comments on crab issues and will be hearing public testimony during the meeting. Among those commenting is Jamie Goen, executive director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers (ABSC).
Goen noted challenges posed by climate change that are impacting ocean temperatures and predators of shellfish, then urged the council to focus on what they do have control over: fishing pressure, bycatch and habitat protections.
ABSC has already asked the U.S. Secretary of Commerce for emergency action to help the stock and crab habitat recover in areas known to be important to red king crab stocks. ABSC’s emergency petition calls for temporarily closure of the red king crab savings area and red king crab savings subarea to all fishing gear from January through June of 2023 to help crab stocks in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands recover.
“The status quo approach for BSAI crab is not working,” Goen said. “We need decision-makers to find solutions that keep all sectors fishing including directed crab fisheries. Even small-scale, directed crab fisheries for bairdi (Tanner), Bristol Bay red king crab and snow (opilio) crab during these low abundance levels would be a lifeline,” she said.