Alaska/Pacific Coast

Processors prepare for big harvest in Bristol Bay
Cordova Times – March 7, 2018
Results of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s 2018 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon processing capacity survey indicate that major processors are ready for a bigger harvest than anticipated.

Chinook PSC limits up for review in April
Cordova Times – March 7, 2018
A second initial review of Gulf of Alaska catcher vessel Chinook prohibited species catch limit adjustments is on tap for the April 2-10 meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

P-cod fishery closed to some sectors in Central GOA
Cordova Times – March 7, 2018
Federal fisheries officials have temporarily halted fishing for Pacific cod by catcher vessels less than 50 feet in length using hook and line gear in the Central Gulf of Alaska.

A Story of Two Sets of Catch Limits, Both for Halibut in 2018
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker – March 8, 2018
New catch limits for the 2018 Pacific halibut season will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, March 9, with an effective date of March 8, but don’t believe them. The real catch limits will be in a second Federal Register notice that will come out early next week.

No, this is not fake news.

This necessary but confusing process was triggered when the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) struck an impasse on catch limits between Canada and the U.S. at a meeting in January. Other regulatory changes — season dates and minor regulatory fixes — will be accurately described in Friday’s Final Rule in the Federal Register.

But the catch limits will not be accurate because the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) must follow the U.S. Halibut Act, which says in the case of an impasse, the preceding year’s catch limits will be used, so those numbers will run in tomorrow’s Federal Register.

This default contingency which has rarely, if ever, been used, only works when stocks are abundant or increasing. That’s not the case for Pacific halibut. Stocks are slowly declining and the biomass has suffered in the last few years from little to no evidence of new recruits.

So no one at the IPHC’s annual meeting wanted to see the catch limits stay the same — both advisory bodies and the scientific staff knew a drop was urgently needed. The two countries, Canada and the U.S., just couldn’t agree on how much.

Thus, the official result was no agreement, which dictates the previous year’s limits are in place for another year. Because NMFS is obligated to publish a Final Rule that reflects what the IPHC, as a whole, agreed to, tomorrow’s rule will include last year’s (2017’s) adopted catch limits, as the limits for 2018.

Each of IPHC’s six Commissioners knew last year’s catches couldn’t stand and all six agreed to lower limits in their country.

That’s where the second, more accurate Interim Rule in the Federal Register, the one that will be published next week, comes in.

In late January, catch limits in the U.S. totaling 30.11 mlbs were submitted to NMFS.  In Canada, the catch limit sent to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) was 7.1 million pounds for Area 2B, British Columbia. That is a 15% drop from the 2017 limit.

Added together, the total is 37.21 mlbs., down almost nine percent from last year’s total of 40.74 mlbs.

But as of two days ago, the U.S. total could change if a request by Washington state and the tribes that co-manage halibut, is granted.

On March 6 Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) asked NMFS to raise the Fisheries CEY from 1.19 mlbs to 1.33 mlbs, the amount adopted in 2017. The letter, written by Michele Culver, Intergovernmental Ocean Policy Manager for WDFW, pointed out that the 2017 summer survey off the coast of Washington ran into a low-oxygen area where no halibut, indeed no species of any fish, were found. In the past, this area had measurable amounts of halibut, but when oxygen levels drop, fish and shellfish leave the area.

Culver also described new information that had come from a coalition of Washington state tribes.

“…[W]e have heard from our tribal co-managers that they do not believe that the “conservation necessity standard” has been met to justify a proposed reduction in the 2A catch limit. While it is unclear to us whether this standard has been met, we would note that several catch limits were modeled for Area 2A, including the 2017 Fishery CEY [Constant Exploitable Yield] of 1.33 milliion pounds and, through this modeling exercise, varying the 2A catch levels did not seem to have any detectable difference in the overall status of the stock,” she wrote.

“Given the uniqueness of this year’s halibut management process and the question that the tribes have raised about the conservation necessity standard, WDFW would like to indicate our support for the tribes’ position and for the Area 2A Fishery CEY of 1.33 million pounds for 2018,” Culver concluded.

Here is a look at what will be in the Final Interim Rule, expected next week. Without any changes in Area 2A, the Total CEY is 37.21 mlbs. With proposed changes in Area 2A, the total would increase by about 140,000 lb.

The numbers below include legal-sized bycatch (TCEY). Fisheries CEY includes commercial, recreational, and subsistence catch of legal-sized fish, but not bycatch mortality or that of sublegal sizes.

Area 2A (Washington/Oregon/California) =  1.32 unless it’s raised to approximately 1.5 mlbs.
Area 2B (British Columbia, Canada) = 7.1 mlbs, a nearly 15% drop from 2017
Area 2C  (Southeast Alaska) = 6.34 mlbs, a 10% drop
Area 3A  (Southcentral Alaska) = 12.54 mlbs, a 3% drop
Area 3B  (Western Gulf of Alaska) = 3.27 mlbs, an 18% drop
4A (Aleutian Islands) = 1.74 mbls, a 3% drop
4B (Western Gulf, Southern Bering Sea) = 1.28 mlbs, a 5% drop
4CDE (Central Bering Sea) = 3.62 mlbs, a nearly 6% drop.


Volcanoes and Eelgrass Transform Salmon Habitat
NOAA Fisheries – March 5, 2018 Feature Story
Nearshore habitat for young salmon and other wildlife is slowly disappearing in Chignik, Alaska. A new NOAA Fisheries study is the first to quantify shallowing of the seafloor in the area, and to identify its likely cause: the combined forces of volcanoes and eelgrass.


NPFMC: Council meets April 2-10, 2018 in Anchorage, Alaska
Saving Seafood – March 7, 2018
North Pacific Fishery Management Council
The following was released by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council:
The meetings are held at the Hilton Hotel, 500 W. 3rd Avenue, in Anchorage, Alaska. The Agenda and Schedule are available, as well as a list of documents for review posted to the agenda prior to the meeting. Other meeting information follows:

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
Office Manager
1900 W Emerson Place Suite 205, Seattle, WA 98119
Phone: 206.281.1667
E-mail:; Website:
Our office days/hours are Monday-Friday
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March 8, 2018