Proposal for Observer Coverage on Groundfish Trawl Vessels Gets No Action

The Alaska Board of
Fisheries on Dec. 10 voted to take no action on a proposal to require 100 percent
observer coverage on groundfish trawl vessels in state waters of the Cook
Inlet, Kodiak and Chignak management areas of Alaska.
The proposal will,
however, also be considered at the board’s Kodiak finfish meeting, Jan 7-11 at
Kodiak’s Harbor Convention Center.

Alaska Marine
Conservation Council, Cape Barnabus Inc. and Ouzinkie Community Holding Inc. proposed
the measure, noting that trawl fisheries currently operate in the Central Gulf
of Alaska under the restructured program with 13 percent to 15 percent observer

With halibut and
Chinook salmon stocks in decline and declines in available harvest for Tanner
crab fisheries, accurate information on the number of these species caught as
bycatch in the trawl fisheries is critical, and current levels of coverage do
not ensure that bycatch is accurately estimated, they said.
Proposal sponsors
said users of Chinook salmon, halibut and Tanner crab would benefit from having
better information about the level of bycatch in groundfish fisheries. The
information would also benefit the state and groundfish fishermen, who would
have more accurate information about their catches and bycatch, they said.

No one, they said,
would suffer. “Those who find the 100 percent observer coverage requirement
overly burdensome can choose to fish in federal waters and be subject to the
federal observer program which does not require 100 percent coverage at this
time,” the proposal said.

AMCC, a non-profit
representing fishermen, subsistence harvesters, marine scientists and small
business owners, had sent a letter on Dec. 5 to the fisheries board, saying
such increased observer coverage is desperately needed. Observer coverage under
the federal observer program is insufficient to provide accurate data, and
action to require 100 percent observer coverage in state waters should not wait
for the development of a catch share/comprehensive trawl bycatch management
program, AMCC said.