NMFS GOA Groundfish Plan

A final rule has been implemented to allow reapportionment of unused Chinook salmon prohibited species catch in the Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries among specific trawl sectors, based on specific criteria and within specified limits.

The National Marine Fisheries Service published the final rule to implement Amendment 103 to the fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska in the Federal Register, effective on Sept. 12.

The complete document is online at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/09/12/2016-21808/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-chinook-salmon-bycatch-management-in-the-gulf-of.

Reapportionments of unused Chinook salmon PSC may not exceed 3,342 Chinook salmon to vessels participating in the Western GOA pollock sector, 9,158 Chinook salmon to vessels participating in the Central GOA pollock sector, 600 Chinook salmon to the rockfish program catcher vessel sector, and 1,250 Chinook salmon to the non-rockfish program catcher vessel sector.

The final rule also acknowledges that NMFS’s ability to reapportion unused Chinook salmon PSC does not offer any certainty for any pollock or non-pollock sector that a fishery will remain open.
Kodiak harvester and processor Duncan Fields, who recently completed his tenure on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, noted that there was general recognition that the council’s previous actions to reduce Chinook bycatch in pollock and non-pollock fisheries had been substantial, and that individual processing facilities can opt to donate the PSC Chinooks to SeaShare, the Seattle entity that accepts and distributes large quantities of donated seafood to food banks and other entities in need.

While SeaShare does a wonderful job, the percentage of total salmon and halibut bycatch that is donated to SeaShare is relatively small, Fields said. “I think that salmon and halibut bycatch should be better utilized. While I appreciate that donations to SeaShare are voluntary, I also see the need for more directive regulations with regards to the SeaShare program.”

Fields noted that he had twice moved for 100 percent retention of PSC and having it donated to SeaShare, but some companies did not want this because they wanted to have the choice of whether to process and donate bycatch, based on their economics and capacity. They told the NPFMC that making retention of and donation to SeaShare of all PSC took away from the spirit of the program, Fields said.