Steller BiOp Review Draws Large Crowd

Aleutians East Borough’s community development coordinator, Ernest Weiss, notes that a large crowd turned out in Anchorage recently for a public meeting to provide comments about an independent scientific review report on the biological opinion fisheries management plan for the Bering Sea and Aleutian islands.

Back in November 2010, the National Marine Fisheries Service accepted comments between the time of release of the draft and final publication of the 2010 North Pacific groundfish fishery biological opinion. At that time there was no independent scientific review of the document, even though there was an obvious consensus among scientists and the industry, Weiss noted.

Then in April, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game initiated an independent panel to review the Steller BiOp. The panel released the draft document “an independent, scientific review of the biological opinion (2010) of the fisheries management plan for groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands management area on July 21. That draft BiOp review disputes much of the analysis and many conclusions reached in the BiOp.

In its executive summary, Weiss noted, the independent scientific panel said “we do not agree with the finding of jeopardy or adverse modification for Steller sea lions in the western and central Aleutian Islands as concluded in the BiOp for the fishery management plan.

Among those testifying was former North Pacific Fishery Management Council member Dave Benton, who said closure of the Pollock fishery in the Western Aleutians for more than 10 years has not resulted in increased levels of Steller Sea lions in that area.