The Bering Sea Pollock industry has agreed to a new plan to reduce the chum salmon bycatch that happens every year in the Pollock fishery. The Marine Conservation Alliance made the announcement on July 12 from Juneau. Through use of the Inter-cooperative Salmon Agreement the Pollock industry agreed to allow the independent organization SeaState to close an additional 1,000 square nautical miles of fishing grounds to reduce encounters with chum salmon. That brings the total area allowed for closure to 5,000 square nautical miles – an area bigger than the state of Connecticut.
“We as the Inter-cooperative can take the bull by the horns and address this problem,” said John Gruver of United Catcher Boats. “I think we are doing the right thing.”
The cooperative program calls for SeaState to review federal observer data collected while vessels are actively fishing and to close specific fishing grounds if a salmon “hot spot” appears. The fishery also uses spatial measures for other species, such as squid, where bycatch was successfully reduced several years ago through area closures.
Several years ago the Alaska Pollock fishery became a catch share fishery, with a cooperative-based fishing culture. The Pollock fisheries in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska have been sharply criticized for salmon bycatch and other efforts also are underway with an aim of drastically reducing the number of salmon caught incidentally.