North Pacific Fishery Management Council Spring Meeting in Anchorage

Final action on crab management issues in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and hired skipper restrictions for halibut/ sablefish are on the agenda for the March 30- April 5 meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage.

The council will conduct a preliminary review of changes proposed in the salmon fishery management plan and an initial review of Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon bycatch control measures.

The council has scheduled eight hours each for halibut/sablefish, salmon and BSAI crab issues.

Also on tap is final action on the essential fish habitat omnibus amendment, which were identified during the 2010 EFH 5-year-review, and an initial review, followed by final action to revise Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod jig fishery management.

The bulk of the public testimony is expected to come on the Gulf king salmon bycatch control measures, and action to amend hired skipper privileges granted to individual and corporate initial recipients of catcher vessel quota shares during implementation of the halibut and sablefish Individual Fishing Quota program in 1995, council staff opined.

During its February meeting in Seattle, the federal panel reviewed two staff discussion papers concerning measures to address Chinook salmon bycatch by Pollock trawl fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska.

The council’s action is rooted in the record high bycatch of 54,000 king salmon catch in the Gulf groundfish trawl fishery in 2010. This occurred at the same time as many of the Gulf king salmon runs were suffering from historic low returns., outraging commercial sport and subsistence users of the succulent fish.

The proposed action includes alternatives to implement Chinook salmon bycatch caps in the central and western Gulf Pollock fisheries and/or a cooperative program to address Chinook bycatch in those fisheries. After reviewing the papers, the council modified its alternatives by clarifying the options for apportioning the proposed caps between the two regulatory areas, and more fully specifying the cooperative program alternative.

The council clarified that the cap would be apportioned between the western and central Gulf, rather than a Gulf-wide cap, and that apportionment would be based either on the relative historic Pollock catch in each regulatory area, or relative historic bycatch amounts in each area, or a weighted ratio of catch and bycatch.

A second discussion paper, on the cooperative program reviewed at the February meeting led the council to add substantial detail to its bycatch control cooperative alternative.

The complete agenda is at