North Pacific Halibut Bycatch Limit Could See 50 Percent Cut
KUCB by Lauren Rosenthal – February 9, 2015
Halibut harvests have been on the decline in the Bering Sea for years, but the amount that trawlers and catcher-processors are allowed to take has stayed the same. Now, federal regulators have agreed to consider stiffer limits on halibut bycatch.
North Pacific Council Broadens Scope of Potential Halibut Bycatch Cap Reduction in Bering Sea
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [News Analysis] by John Sackton February 9, 2015
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council spent 4 days discussing halibut bycatch issues during the meeting in Seattle, which is still on-going.
The time spent shows just how intractable this issue may be for the council, and the Alaska fishing industry as a whole.
There has been widespread criticism of the changes in the International Pacific Halibut Commission assessment model, but all parties agree that the overall situation of the stock has deteriorated sharply.
Over the past few years while total Halibut landings have been cut back, the totals allowed for the trawl fleets in Alaska to use as bycatch have not been adjusted.
The issue came to a head this year, when the preliminary IPHC data for the Bering Sea area showed that if the scientific model was followed, the directed halibut fishery would barely open, yet the by-catch would be four or five times the amount allocated to the directed fishery in 2014.
For this year, the IPHC and the council have agreed to set higher halibut directed fishery limits in the Bering Sea, but with the understanding that these higher limits will be supported by bycatch reductions.
The council is now looking at options to revise downward halibut bycatch options for the trawl fleets in the Bering Sea.
The Council was originally presented with options where the greatest by-catch reduction was 35%. They amended that to consider by-catch reductions of up to 60% in some sectors.
The specific options to be considered are:
Reduce halibut prohibited species catch, or PSC, the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands trawl limited access sector by 10 percent, 20, percent, 30 percent, 35 percent, 40 percent, 45 percent, or 50 percent
Reduce halibut PSC limit for the Amendment 80 sector by Suboption one: Reducing halibut PSC to Amendment 80 cooperatives by 10 percent, 20, percent, 30 percent, 35 percent, 40 percent, 45 percent, or 50 percent
Suboption two: Reducing halibut PSC to the Amendment 80 limited access by: 10 percent, 20, percent, 30 percent, 35 percent, 40 percent, 45 percent, 50 percent, or 60 percent
Reduce halibut PSC limit for Pacific cod hook and line catcher vessels by 10 percent, 20, percent, 30 percent, 35 percent, 40 percent, 45 percent, or 50 percent
Reduce CDQ halibut prohibited species quota by 10 percent, 20, percent, 30 percent, 35 percent, 40 percent, 45 percent, or 50 percent
Reduce halibut PSC limit for other non-trawl (ie, hook and line catcher vessels and catcher processors targeting anything except Pacific cod or sablefish) by 10 percent, 20, percent, 30 percent, 35 percent, 40 percent, 45 percent, or 50 percent.
The council can choose more than one of these options and is planning to do so in June.
Northern Economics was hired to do an analysis of the economic impact of making changes in the by-catch regulations.
A number of speakers challenged the conclusions of the study, or said that it missed important factors.
For example, the Council’s Science and Statistical Committee identified four areas the analysis missed and recommended to the Council that these insufficiencies be corrected for the April Council meeting. They are:
· A consideration of under-26 inch halibut mortality. Halibut less than 26-inches long are too small to be caught by halibut fishermen using large hooks on longline gear, but are caught by a trawl nets. In fact, nearly half of the halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea is of U-26 halibut.
· A consideration of behavioral changes in the groundfish fleets that would maximize harvests with less bycatch. These would include more of what those fleets are already doing – fishing at night to avoid halibut, trending with ocean bottom water temperatures, using more effectively designed excluder devices more often, communicating with other members of the groundfish coop when halibut are abundant in certain areas, and deck sorting to minimize halibut mortality before returning them to the water.
· More complete consideration of socioeconomic impacts, specifically the non commercial values in the surrounding communities such as subsistence and cultural changes.
· Clarity in the assumptions used in the model. The SSC termed the document “seriously deficient” in this area.
The key issue, which makes this whole problem so difficult, is the great economic disparity between the value of halibut to the trawl fleets, and the value of halibut to the directed fishery, and the local communities.
For example, in the contested analysis, Northern Economics said that if the council adopted a 35% reduction in halibut bycatch, the trawl limited access fisheries would see a reduction in revenue of $78 to $145 million, and the Amendment 80 fleet which fishes on flatfish and cannot completely avoid halibut, would see a potential reduction of $224 to $368 million.
Put another way, under a scenario where pollock fishery halibut bycatch is reduced pacific cod catches could be reduced by 7%, and yellowfin sole catches by 10%.
However, the pollock fishery accounts for a small portion of the halibut bycatch. If the pollock amounts were unchanged, the potential reduction in Pacific Cod would be 13%, and for yellowfin sole 17%.
These are huge numbers for the Council to put in play for allocation, and it is not at all clear whether these numbers are accurate.
The Council’s next meeting in April will hear more about the analysis of these options, and in June the council will make some kind of decision.
The halibut fishery is an iconic small vessel fishery, and many of the fishing communities in Alaska are closely tied to the fishery. At the same time, halibut bycatch is an indispensable part of Alaska’s trawl fisheries, and without access to a halibut allocation, these fisheries cannot proceed.
The common ground is the sense that everything possible must be done to reduce bycatch, which has been very successfully accomplished in other fisheries that operate as co-ops or on a rationalized basis.
When the bycatch of some rockfish species was reduced to literally a few individual fish, the West Coast trawlers were able to plot their strategies in a way that avoided hotspots, carefully monitored any bycatch, and in fact were successful in getting through the bottleneck, so that now rockfish stocks have increased significantly, and the trawl fisheries are operating in a healthy manner as well.
The pacific cod fleet and the Amendment 80 fleet, along with the pollock fleet, have tools they can use to reduce bycatch. The halibut fleet also can reduce bycatch mortality.
If the common ground is to achieve big changes in halibut mortality, the council can move forward with a plan that may work for everyone, even if it is difficult.
With millions of dollars of revenue on the table, it is no wonder that there was a lot of tension around the Council meetings this week.
SAVEC sponsoring Bristol Bay Fisheries Business Cooperative effort
KDLG News – February 9, 2015
Project to build on two years’ worth of collaborative efforts amongst some of Bristol Bay’s small processors and “mom and pop” direct marketers.
NOAA: U.S. continues global leadership to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing
Saving Seafood.org – February 9, 2015
IUU fishing and seafood fraud undermine international efforts to sustainably manage and rebuild fisheries, and creates unfair market competition for fishermen playing by the rules, like those in the United States.
2015 Seafood Champion Award Winners Honored at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit
The Fish Site – February 10, 2015
Six world leaders have been recognised for promoting ocean health and sustainable seafood at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in New Orelans, US.
New Method to Allow Sampling from Live Salmon
The Fish Site – February 9, 2015
NORWAY – EWOS Innovation is developing a new method which makes the sampling of pigment and fat on live Atlantic salmon possible within seconds, whilst keeping the fish alive.
Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; Pacific Whiting Allocations and Fishery Closure; Pacific Whiting Seasons
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 02/10/2015
This document announces the reapportionment of 45,000 metric tons (mt) of Pacific whiting from the tribal allocation to the non-tribal commercial fishery sectors via two actions, in order to allow full utilization of the Pacific whiting resource. It also announces the implementation of an Ocean Salmon Conservation Zone that prohibited the targeting of Pacific whiting with midwater trawl gear shoreward of approximately 100 fathoms (fm) (183 m) to reduce Chinook salmon bycatch in the Pacific whiting fishery.
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