Alaska/Pacific Coast

ADF&G Advisory Committee Wants to Ease Fishing Restrictions
KNOM by Zoe Grueskin – April 6, 2018
Encouraged by strong salmon runs last summer, the regional advisory committee of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is proposing the department ease regulations on both commercial and subsistence fishing in Nome and Port Clarence.

NPFMC rules on mixing guided, unguided halibut
Council supports applying guided sport fishing limits to unguided catch mixed with guided harvest
Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman – April 9, 2018
Halibut harvested using guide services that is possessed with halibut not using guide services would be subject to guided sport fishing limits in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska under action approved by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

North Pacific Council Takes Protective Action on Chinook and Sablefish
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker – April 10, 2018
The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council passed two motions yesterday that were aimed at protecting vulnerable stocks of chinook salmon and a large, but still young year class of Alaska sablefish, or black cod.

The Gulf of Alaska non-pollock trawl fleet operates under a chinook salmon bycatch cap of 7,500 Chinook a year. Estimated bycatch of chinook in recent years has been well under that cap, at about 5,000 Chinook. If the limit were reached, the fishery would be shut down.

More flexible management of the Gulf trawl fisheries was on the table two years ago, but the Council reached an impasse between members who wanted different kinds of rationalization; in the end the Council agreed to drop the issue entirely.

Since the Chinook cap was set in 2015, Chinook salmon escapements to Southeast Alaska river systems have declined to the point that the Alaska Board of Fish has imposed “severe Chinook salmon harvest restrictions on all users in the region for 2018 and subsequent fishing seasons,” in a recent BOF announcement.

Public testimony described the Chinook ‘crash’ in Southeast and along the west coast of Canada and the U.S., as well as the economic downturn in Kodiak, where two disasterous pink salmon seasons in a row and drastically-cut Pacific cod quotas are shutting down the waterfront save for the trawl fishery.

Arguments were compelling from both sides, but in the end, the Council agreed to cease further planning to increase the Chinook limit in the Gulf.

Bill Tweit, council member from Washington state, noted that Puget Sound salmon “has entered new lows of productivity long before the blob or warm water came.

“This isn’t some short-term problem, it’s a long-term problem,” Tweit said. “That’s why it’s taken the [Pacific Salmon] Commission so long to resolve it.

“As council members, we do have control over the Gulf of Alaska and we do have the ability to provide better tools. I agree with the testifier who said the tools we’re offering the GOA fleet are very blunt.

“It’s incumbent on this council to revisit the Gulf bycatch issue and provide the tools they need to use. I strongly hope that this council will return to that task.”

A second motion asked for a report that covers the status of Chinook salmon runs and escapement in Alaska, British Columbia, and U.S. West Coast stocks; progress of Pacific Salmon Treaty negotiations; and performance (harvest, effort, timing) of GOA non-pollock trawl CV fisheries that are subject to Chinook PSC limits.

Sablefish abundant but young

In an unusual request made on the last day of the council’s 10-day spring meeting in Anchorage, Stephen Rhoads asked the body to consider lowering the quota for sablefish, also known as black cod, to protect an abundant year class that is just entering the fishery.

“We’re requesting a discussion paper on the possibility of reducing small sablefish catch and limiting quota in the next few years, as we have this giant year class coming through,” said Rhoads, who fishes for sablefish from his homeport of Sitka.

“The 2014 year class is definitely of historic scale,” he explained. “They had to change the scale on the chart to show how big it is.”

These 4-year old fish are another two to three years from being sexually mature and contributing to the overall stocks. Rhoads and a long list of fishermen’s groups and processors supported the restriction.

“If we take these fish now, before they’ve had a chance to spawn, it will not be good for the stock,” Rhoads said.

The market value will also suffer, he said, as less than five-pound dressed sablefish are worth about $1/lb versus $8/lb that mature fish (7 lb. and up) bring.

Rhoades cited other fisheries where smaller sizes are released or have minimum size limits and referred to a 2011 report estimating 88% survival rate of released smaller fish using longline gear and even higher rate for pot gear.

The council agreed and moved to initiate a discussion paper to consider modifying the requirement to retain small sized sablefish in the Alaska IFQ longline and pot fisheries in both the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands. The paper will look at discard mortality rates in both gears, tradeoffs between implementing a minimum size limit instead of careful release of juveniles, economic data and observer sampling effects.

Council members commented on the rarity of being asked to reduce quotas.

“It’s a unique request,” Rhoads said. “With conditions like this, i don’t want to see fishermen taking more fish out of the ocean for less dollars.”


Fisheries bill draws public testimony from across Alaska
KTUU by Cameron Mackintosh – April 7, 2018
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – The House finance committee on Saturday heard public testimony on HB 199, a bill that would change the permitting process for construction projects around certain fish habitats.

Federal Register

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Sablefish in the Bering Sea Subarea of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 04/10/2018
NMFS is prohibiting retention of non-Community Development Quota (CDQ) sablefish by vessels using trawl gear in the Bering Sea subarea of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary because the 2018 non-CDQ sablefish initial total allowable catch (ITAC) in the Bering Sea subarea of the BSAI will be reached.


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April 10, 2018