Alaska/Pacific Coast

Pacific Council Advances Long-Awaited Rule Allowing Trawl Modifications in West Coast Fleet
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by Susan Chambers – March 18, 2016
The West Coast trawl fleet achieved a long-awaited change to the trawl catch shares program at the Pacific Fishery Management Council this week.

Modifications to trawl gear will allow the fleet to experiment with mesh sizes, cod end changes, chafing gear and more to match their nets to fish behavior, zeroing in on target species while avoiding unwanted species and bycatch.

Many of the gear restrictions have been in place since before the 2011 start of the individual quota program, so fishermen have been beholden to regulations in place during a pre-catch shares management regime. Those regulations were designed in large part to limit access to species listed as overfished via time and area closures and gear prohibitions.

Despite a request from the National Marine Fisheries Service to select final preferred options later in the year and concerns from the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) and Groundfish Management Team (GMT), the Council approved final preferred alternatives, allowing the changes to move forward. NMFS will now write an EIS that analyzes how these changes will affect the fishery. It expects to have the new regulations in place for 2017.

Two of the options — fishing with multiple gears and fishing in multiple management areas — garnered the most discussion on the Council floor and in its advisory body meetings. The SSC and GMT voiced concerns about how these options, particularly if fishermen were allowed to comingle catches, would affect stock assessments and analyses that inform management.

In its statement, the fishermen and processors on the Groundfish Advisory Panel (GAP) proposed limiting the multiple gears option to only multiple trawl gears, thereby eliminating fixed gears such as fish pots or longlines as being onboard at the same time as trawl gear.

“Furthermore, fishermen who are taking advantage of this option would likely use a bottom trawl and mid-water trawl: species compositions for each of those gears is very different and the random intermixing of species that may be caught in both is very small …,” fishermen said in the GAP statement.

Ultimately, the Council approved a sorting requirement for carrying and fishing multiple trawl gears and removed the option for fishing in multiple management areas.  All vessels in the West Coast trawl fleet carry NMFS-approved observers.

Modifying trawl gear has been one of the highest priorities for fishermen and processors to making the trawl individual quota program work. The non-whiting portion of the trawl program harvested only 20 percent of its allowable quota in 2015 and the industry has voiced concern about underutilization at most every Council meeting since 2012.

Two workshops, one in 2011 and one in 2012, brought many of these ideas forward but it’s taken more than five years to get them implemented.

Fishermen testified to the Council that many are unlikely to change their current fishing operations, but at the very least, the changes would like the flexibility to try different ways to fish. For example, allowing a no minimum mesh size could allow fishermen to design escapement panels so small fish can exit the net while the target size and species can be harvested. They noted that flexibility and innovation was one of the key aspects of the trawl program.

The GMT also supported some of the fishermen’s options, including net changes for selective flatfish trawls shoreward of the rockfish conservation area (RCA).

“The GMT sees promise in the proposal to liberalize the types of trawls available for trawling shoreward of the RCA. It will provide captains the flexibility to better attain their target species portfolios, which typically requires effective bycatch reduction strategies. Bycatch limitations vary for individuals; therefore, allowing them the most flexibility to use new types of trawls is a benefit.”
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1011957/Pacific-Council-Advances-Long-Awaited-Rule-Allowing-Trawl-Modifications-in-West-Coast-Fleet

The Alaska Fisheries Report
KMXT – March 17, 2016
Coming up this week, forget about the Jayhawks and the Tar Heels – the real March Madness could begin this week in Sitka Sound. Also, we get an update on Board of Fisheries actions, and the wide-ranging effects of The Blob. We had help from KFSK’s Joe Viechnicki in Petersburg, KDLG’s Molly Dishner in Dillingham, KUCB’s Greta Mart in Unalaska, and KTOO’s Matt Miller in Juneau.
http://www.kmxt.org/content/view/7113/2/

It’s herring season! Sitka sac roe fishery opens on short notice
KCAW by Robert Woolsey – March 17, 2016
The commercial herring season opened Thursday, more abruptly than in past years. Herring seiners had about 2-days’ notice to get to Sitka. And then about another 4 hours’ notice to prep their gear.
http://www.alaskapublic.org/2016/03/17/its-herring-season-sitka-sac-roe-fishery-opens-on-short-notice/

Board of Fish adjusts Bristol Bay set net boundaries
KDLG by Molly Dischner – March 16, 2016
After months of discussion, committee meetings and new criteria – the state fish board changed some set net boundaries in Bristol Bay in response to erosion that’s occurred in the past decades.
http://kdlg.org/post/board-fish-adjusts-bristol-bay-set-net-boundaries

Environment/Science

Satellite Data on Fishing Can Help Protect Ocean Biodiversity
Fish Site – March 18, 2016
US – The ocean’s vastness and remoteness makes it hard to observe and more difficult to manage human activity. Recently developed technology may change that. A navigational safety aid called AIS (Automatic Ship Identification Systems) — which transmits publically accessible data on the exact position of ocean-going vessels via satellite — is not only useful for collision avoidance, but also has potential as a means of protecting ocean health.
http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/27353/satellite-data-on-fishing-can-help-protect-ocean-biodiversity/

Labeling and Marketing

Spring Seafood Celebration: Wild Alaska Halibut and Sablefish (Black Cod) Harvest Seasons Kick Off March 19
More Than 95 Percent of Pacific Halibut and 70 Percent of Sablefish Harvested in the United States Comes from Icy Alaskan Waters
PRNews – March 15, 2016
JUNEAU, Alaska — On March 19, wild Alaska halibut and sablefish, also known as black cod, will begin making its way into home kitchens, restaurants and retailers nationwide with the start of wild Alaska halibut and sablefish harvest seasons. Just in time for spring, the kick-off of this seasonal harvest means more access to some of the most delicious freshly-caught and frozen wild Alaska whitefish in the world.
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/spring-seafood-celebration-wild-alaska-halibut-and-sablefish-black-cod-harvest-seasons-kick-off-march-19-300236807.html

Federal Register

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands; 2016 and 2017 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 03/18/2016
NMFS announces final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications and prohibited species catch allowances for the groundfish fishery of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area (BSAI). This action is necessary to establish harvest limits for groundfish during the 2016 and 2017 fishing years, and to accomplish the goals and objectives of the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP).
https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/03/18/2016-06182/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-bering-sea-and-aleutian-islands-2016-and-2017?utm_campaign=subscription+mailing+list&utm_medium=email&utm_source=federalregister.gov

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Gulf of Alaska; Final 2016 and 2017 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 03/18/2016
NMFS announces final 2016 and 2017 harvest specifications, apportionments, and Pacific halibut prohibited species catch limits for the groundfish fishery of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary to establish harvest limits for groundfish during the 2016 and 2017 fishing years and to accomplish the goals and objectives of the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska. The intended effect of this action is to conserve and manage the groundfish resources in the GOA in accordance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/03/18/2016-06183/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-gulf-of-alaska-final-2016-and-2017-harvest?utm_campaign=subscription+mailing+list&utm_medium=email&utm_source=federalregister.gov

FYI’s

The story of the Storis
Capital City Weekly by Clint J. Farr – March 16, 2016
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Storis was a military ship that served witness to World War II, the Cold War, the 1964 earthquake that rattled Alaska, Exxon Valdez, North Pacific fisheries enforcement, and scores of high seas rescues. The stories of the Storis are varied, numerous, and impressive. That we haven’t heard more about this amazing ship is surprising.
http://www.capitalcityweekly.com/stories/031616/ae_1267391662.shtml

Fish Guide Design for Future Contact Lenses
The Fish Site – March 17, 2016
US – Making the most of the low light in the muddy rivers where it swims, the elephant nose fish survives by being able to spot predators amongst the muck with a uniquely shaped retina, the part of the eye that captures light. In a new study, researchers looked to the fish’s retinal structure to inform the design of a contact lens that can adjust its focus.
http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/27349/fish-guide-design-for-future-contact-lenses/

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Pacific Seafood Processors Association
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March 18, 2016