Federal Fisheries Managers Take Another Look at Bering Sea Salmon Bycatch

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has asked its staff for a
discussion paper that evaluates the regulatory changes needed to incorporate
Bering Sea chum salmon bycatch avoidance into its Chinook salmon incentive plan

The goal, as seen by Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora
Campbell, is lower incidental catch of king and chum salmon during pollock

“The objectives of this action are to prioritize Chinook salmon bycatch
avoidance, while preventing high chum salmon bycatch and focusing on avoidance
of Alaska chum salmon stocks, and allow flexibility to harvest pollock in times
and places that best support those goals,” wrote Campbell, in the motion approved
by the council.

The motion calls for an evaluation of necessary changes to the IPA objectives
and reporting requirements in regulation, and identification of effects of such
a change. It also will identify whether there are elements of a rolling hot
spot system that the council should consider retaining or adding to regulations
that define incentive plan agreements.

The discussion paper will also evaluate possible measures to refine Chinook
salmon bycatch controls in the Bering Sea pollock fisheries, including
shortening the pollock season to end when pollock catch rates significantly
decline and Chinook salmon prohibited species catch rates increase in October.

Staff is also asked to include in the evaluation information on potential
revisions to the annual reporting requirements, combined for chum and king

During its October meeting the council heard from a number of industry
representatives on their progress in lowering the incidental catch of salmon
during groundfish fisheries.

They also heard from fishermen who have been hard hit economically and are
tired of having to sit out salmon fisheries while so much salmon is taken as
bycatch in groundfish fisheries.

“We’ve had a crisis for over 10 years now,” said Roy Ashenfelter, speaking for
Kawarek Inc., a regional non-profit organization in Nome for the Bering Straits

“I heard about millions of dollars to try to change what is going on,” he said.
“For us it is food on the table. I have a lot of pride in fishing for my
family. That has been taken away from us. We don’t have any Chinook in our
river. We have no more Chinook,” he said.