King Salmon Bycatch Prompts Request for Another NPFMC Report

high seas groundfish fisheries, where the goal is the catch of pollock by the
ton, the controversy over the allowable incidental harvest of Chinook salmon
just won’t go away.

April 8, the final day of the April meeting of the North Pacific Fishery
Management Council in Anchorage, the council approved a motion offered by
Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell for a report to
the council on Chinook salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery.

measure sees a review of the status of Alaska Chinook salmon stocks, a report
of 2011 genetic stock identification, along with stock-based adult-equivalency
run reconstruction and prohibited species catch harvest rate analyses for king
salmon stocks. It also seeks to evaluate fishing and bycatch performance under
Amendment 9 of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands fishery management plan by
gathering data from 2003 through 2013 on numbers and rates of bycatch taken by
month, by sector; use of salmon excluders, by sector and season, and the
variability between bycatch rates per vessel within each section in 2011-2012.

action came as the Alaska State Senate, in its final session days in Juneau,
passed a resolution encouraging fishery managers to lower limits on Chinook
bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, and in support of increased
coverage by fishery observers to obtain accurate estimates on bycatch.

Harrell, executive director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, said
AMCC hopes that the NPFMC will heed the Senate’s message, as well as letters
from the Bush caucus and others, to further reign in bycatch.

NPFMC’s action came after the council had heard extensive reports from United
Catcher Boats and others in the groundfish industry, plus an update on salmon
genetics research, and heard passionate pleas for and against another
discussion paper on the incidental harvest of Chinook salmon.

the industry’s perspective, they are doing all they can in development of gear
such as salmon excluders and with the practice of avoiding areas where large
numbers of king and chum salmon are detected, areas known as rolling hot spots.

council should respond to appropriate information,” said Stephanie Madsen, who
is the executive director of the At-Sea Processors Association. “The pollock
fishery isn’t the only source of the decline in salmon. You could also shut us
down and that’s not going to help people in the region in the short term.”

like Becca Robins Gisclair, policy director of the Yukon River Drainage
Fisheries Association, were in support of the discussion paper. Given
restrictions on the king salmon fishery to meet treaty obligations with Canada,
by 2012 residents of Yukon River communities were less than halfway to meeting
subsistence needs, she said. “We are talking about actual people’s food here,”
she said.