“We are reasonably happy with overall numbers and glad some progress [has been] made with Canada, but disappointed commissioners did not follow unanimous recommendation from stakeholders on distribution of catch between areas,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka, Alaska.
“We feel like the overall catch limit was conservative, responsive to current stock status; that there was progress made in identifying equitable sharing of the catch with Canada, but we were a little surprised by the distribution of catch between areas,” Behnken said. “The one disappointment was the commissioners did not follow what was a precedent setting unanimous support from the US harvesters and processors on the distribution of catch limits across Alaska areas, but deviated from that somewhat.”
The change in projections, which prompted the small boost in catch limits, is based on the revised estimated strength of the 2011 and 2012 classes, but Behnken noted that it is “still too soon to be sure of year class strengths, so [there is] a fair bit of uncertainty and fishermen are uncomfortable with being too optimistic.”
“I feel like 3A got less fish in order to balance the books on area 2A, 2B and 2C,” said Malcolm Milne, a longliner and president of the North Pacific Fisheries Association in Homer. “Canada was guaranteed a harvest based on a formula that weighed their harvest over the last five years, which far exceeded the IPHC recommendations.
“The IPHC is an independent scientific body with a well-educated professional staff that gives the commission science-based recommendations that are negotiated both in total harvest and by area allocations, Milne said. “A year-by-year comparison of the IPHC recommended catch levels versus the adopted catch levels clearly demonstrates how much overharvest has been negotiated,” he added.
US Commissioner Chris Oliver, the administrator for NOAA Fisheries, said that while the overall quota is a slight increase over 2018 the catch limits agreed to at the meeting “reflect a sensible, conservative approach that will secure the future of this iconic and economically important species. We solved several challenging international fishery management issues and we accomplished our goal in the spirit of cooperation and compromise.”
The IPHC set the catch limits by areas as follows: 2A (California, Oregon and Washington, 1.65 million pounds; 2B (British Columbia) 6.83 million pounds; 2C (Southeast Alaska) 6.34 million pounds; 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska) 13.50 million pounds; 3B (Western Gulf of Alaska) 2.90 million pounds; 4A (Eastern Aleutians) 1.94 million pounds; 4B (Central/Western Aleutians) 1.45 million pounds; 4 CDE (Bering Sea) 4.00 million pounds.