Stay home or go fishing? Homer fishermen grapple with cod decline
KBBI by Aaron Bolton – December 15, 2017
Regulators voted to slash Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod allocations 80 percent earlier this month after a massive decline in stocks. That has fishermen and processors around the Gulf deciding what to do when the season kicks off on in January.
Southeast Alaska winter troll fishery to remain open
KFSK by Joe Viechnicki – December 18, 2017
Commercial trolling for king salmon in Southeast Alaska will stay open this winter beyond December.
Juneau Assembly urges feds to tackle transboundary mining
KTOO by Jacob Resneck – December 18, 2017
The Juneau Assembly has signaled its support for federal intervention over Canadian mines that have long concerned a coalition of fishing interests and environmentalists.
Bristol Bay Fisheries Collaborative: A Successful Inaugural Year Keeping Salmon Management Funded
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker – December 19, 2017
Four years of declining budgets for ADF&G prompted a group of stakeholders in Bristol Bay to form a coalition to reestablish Fish and Game’s ability to manage the crucial sockeye salmon fisheries there.
The processors, fishermen, tribal members, scientists, shippers, and others formed the Bristol Bay Fisheries Collaborative (BBFC), a grass-roots initiative born in 2016 with a goal of rebuilding management capacity lost due to budget cuts, better utilize in fish stocks, and maintain important long-term datasets.
Their first annual report, authored by Bristol Bay Science and Research Institute (BBSRI), was released Monday.
Within eight months of signing the MOA, $687,539 was pledged to fund salmon monitoring projects for the 2017 season,” wrote Michael Link, executive director of the BBSRI.
Also as a result of the collaboration, ADF&G’s Bristol Bay budget was not cut for its fiscal year starting on July 1, 2017. Cost recovery test fishing was not implemented in 2017.
The entire Core Program for Bristol Bay requires approximately $2,775,000 annually (not including the regional personnel who spend part of their work year on Bay matters).
Of this total, BBFC this year would raise $815,000 (29%) for salmon-related components, with the remainder coming from the current State budget if possible. With additional funds rolling over from last year, the fund-raising goal for salmon in 2018 is likely $687,000.
The Togiak herring assessment project is kept separate from those for salmon, and it would require an additional $61,000.
The Core Program includes:
1. A team of professionals to collect and interpret information on the status of the fish stocks and regulate fishing effort.
2. Protect weak stocks while exploiting productive stocks to the extent possible (36%).
a. Port Moller Test Fishery – Provides indices of abundance and genetic broodstock composition from a sampling project 6-9 days travel from the inshore fishing districts.
b. District test fishing, in-river test fishing, and aerial surveys – Managers recruit commercial fishermen to conduct test fishing within districts and department on the Ugashik, Egegik, and Kvichak rivers.
c. Salmon escapement enumeration – The Core Program includes towers on the Togiak, Igushik, Wood, Kvichak, Alagnak, Naknek, Egegik and Ugashik rivers, and the Portage Sonar project on the Nushagak River.
3. Maintain all existing stock-specific brood tables (8%).
4. Provide modest support for program evaluation and investment in tools to lower program costs, and expand and/or improve the value of fishing opportunities (5%).
Going forward, Link and colleague Jeff Regnart saw the need for some options for the stakeholders to consider.
“A question we received many times was “what’s the long-term plan?” said Link. “Although stakeholder funding might remain some part of the solution in the longer term, many or most stakeholders see much of the Core Program belonging in the state operating budget.”
To address questions about what Link calls “The Long Game”, he and Jeff saw four approaches to demonstrating the value of information from investments in Bristol Bay fisheries management.
1) Simply lobby politicians to spend more money on fisheries management by raising state revenues, including taxes, and/or by spending less on competing state needs.
2) Conduct structured on/off experiments: Eliminate and then reestablish various management components in a systematic way across seasons to quantify their value.
3) Use expert judgment based on intimate knowledge of the fishery, management levels, and responses of the fish stocks to make a first and conservative approximation of the relative merits of different levels of management capacity.
4) Model the fishery responses to different levels of management information. Use computer models to simulate management intensity and its impact on catches, economic yields, and fish stocks across various levels of spending on monitoring and management.
Stakeholders will begin considering these options in 2018.
With revenues not projected to rise in the near term, other communities around the Gulf and Bristol Bay may want to look at the Bristol Bay Collaborative concept for their community.
MSA Reauthorization Veers From Core Principles After House Committee Vote; Would Allow Overfishing
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker – December 19, 2017
After last week’s House mark up and approval of two bills involved in MSA reauthorization, the Act is closer to being made weaker and less precise.
By changing words like “to the extent possible” to “to the extent practical” when rebuilding stocks, ignoring annual catch limits, mandating state authority to supersede federal in some cases, and including extending state waters out to the EEZ by 9 miles, MSA’s core principles are being eroded.
Principles like preventing overfishing, using sound science to monitor stocks, rebuilding stocks over more than ten years, and minimizing bycatch, have been removed or de-emphasized in both bills, which passed the House Natural Resources Committee on a Republican only vote.
The bills passed without the compromise amendment offered by minority member Jared Huffman (D-CA).
Alaska’s Don Young was not happy about the lack of compromise. “I promised to find a compromise and have a bipatisan draft. We worked on many sections, but couldn’t come up with a solution” before time had run out, he said.
Huffman, author of the compromise than he and Young worked on said that he “had a lot of hope that we … would produce a strongly bipartisan Magnuson reauthorization the way we used to do.
“We came very close right up to yesterday. The gentleman offered to take out some of the provisions that were undermining several different environmental laws. As part of that compromise there was one remaining sticking point and that was how the bill dealt with annual catch limits and the rebuilding framewhork under Magnuson.They are kind of a big deal.
“The rigor of that rebuilding framework and the need to have that accountability there is part of the success of the Magnuson Act. It’s part of what has delivered us from overfishing in the past and brought us to sustainable, profitable fisheries,” Huffman said.
“Over-broad exemptions [that] take away some of that framework in short-sighted ways, would take us right back to overfishing, and that goes to the heart of what the Magnuson Act attempts to do.
“Unfortunately in its current form, that’s what HR200 would allow,” Huffman said.
Meanwhile, landings of recreational red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico are expected to be 156% over the annual catch limit in the Gulf by the end of this year, according to estimates by some environmental groups. This would trigger a declaration of overfishing by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which could result in further closures of the fishery.
Last summer NGO Ocean Conservancy sued the NOAA and the Secretary of Commerce over violations of the MSA by extending the red snapper recreational fishery when it had already caught the annual limit, knowing the move would likely damage the resource. The suit is now before the judge, with a decision expected in the new year.
A Wednesday’s hearing, an amendment from Rep. Garett Graves (R-LA) on his own bill HR3588 (The Snapper Act) was to clarify an exemption that recreational anglers would never need to record bycatch or discards.
“We just want to ensure that when you go recreational fishing, and you take your kids, and they need to release a fish, that it will not be subjected to a bycatch reporting requirement,” Graves said.
“I appreciate the gentlemen’s interest in making life easier for the recreational fishers of the world, but I think there are some unintended consequences here,” Huffman said.
“We talk about the need for more data. Collecting data on bycatch, even if it is not for species that are targeted in the recreational fishery, would be of value. I’d rather leave this in the hands of fisheries managers rather than swoop in from Congress and say this can never be done,” Huffman said.
Nine amendments were offered to the committee. Seven were accepted from majority members. Only one was accepted from a minority member. Both bills passed out of committee to the House floor on votes that were strictly along party lines.
The bills go to a House vote next, which won’t be until January at the earliest. Then the bills go to the Senate, where there are similar bills to conference.
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