Alaska/Pacific Coast

NOAA proposes compensated reallocation program between halibut commercial and charter sectors
NOAA by Julie Speegle – October 2, 2017
NOAA Fisheries is proposing to authorize formation of a recreational quota entity (RQE), which could purchase and hold commercial halibut quota shares for use by charter anglers in International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) regulatory Areas 2C (Southeast Alaska) and 3A (Southcentral Alaska).
http://alaska-native-news.com/noaa-proposes-compensated-reallocation-program-between-halibut-commercial-and-charter-sectors-30983

Stunning Preliminary Report Shows Gulf of Alaska Cod Stocks Down By a Third From Expected Levels
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker – October 4, 2017
A report that had been seen by only a few industry members, scientists, and managers, shocked committee members at the North Pacific Council meeting with the message that preliminary numbers show the lowest estimate ever of Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska.

The report showed that cod year classes for 2012 and 2013 were essentially wiped out, and failed to show up in the survey.  The disappearance of these year classes coincided with the extended period of high water temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska in 2014-15.  This was the time the ‘blob’ was off the Pacific coast. As a result, pacific cod TACs are likely to be significantly less fore 2018.

Pacific cod, along with rockfish, is the money fish in the Gulf of Alaska.  A large cut in cod TACs to prevent overfishing will have a large impact in the Gulf.

The report was presented yesterday to the Science and Sustainability Committee and the Advisory Panel of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council yesterday, a day before the Council convenes its week-long meeting.

Authored by Steve Barbeaux of NOAA Fisheries, the report showed a recruitment failure of the 2012 year-class in 2015. A high abundance of cod larvae that showed up in the survey in 2013 never made it to the bottom trawl survey in 2015.

This means the 2012 year class, seen in 2013 but not in 2015 (the surveys are done every other year) experienced a catastrophic failure.

Running the numbers through his model, Barbeaux determined a preliminary estimate for Allowable Biological Catch (ABC) at 79,282 mt which would calculate to a federal catch limit of 57,826 mt. Sixty percent of that would be allocated to the A season for a total of 34,696 mt.

Still, “This may be too high,” Barbeaux said, “potentially driving stock to an overfished condition if fully utilized.”

The report uses data from the most recent Gulf of Alaska cod survey in an assessment model to estimate the abundance (numbers) and biomass (weight) of Pcod in the area.

It shows there has been a 71 percent decline in abundance since 2015, and an 83 percent decline since 2013. In weight, it shows a 58 percent drop in the biomass since 2015, and a 78 percent decline since 2013.

Graph Showing Biomass Estimates from Trawl Survey in Gulf of Alaska, Presented to SSC.

In 2015 there were record high temperatures in the Gulf — it was the year that the strange “blob” of warm water in the North Pacific was at its hottest and most expansive, affecting waters as far north as the Bering Sea. it has cooled down now so that ocean temperatures are now closer to, although still warmer than, the 1996-2016 average range.

Barbeaux accessed other surveys — a longline survey showing a 53% decline from 2015 and a large mesh trawl survey that showed pcod abundance trends were down for both 2015 and 2016.

He looked at PCod bycatch in the pollock fishery and found that those numbers had significantly decreased.

When stomach contents were looked at, the prey weight was “down to lowest measured in Pacific cod stomachs in 2015.”

In summary, Barbeaux noted that in 2015, “Warmer temperatures were throughout the year and water column; higher metabolism in higher tempertures lead to higher forage requirements, while there were indications of lower forage amounts. With a final conclusion that the combination of that could have lead to higher natural mortality for these years for the 2012 year class.”

Barbeaux also noted that in 2015 was the first of three years in which there were large die-offs of fish-eating birds. The dead birds were emaciated. In addition there were widespread breeding failures in 2016.

Still, “This may be too high,” Barbeaux said, “potentially driving stock to an overfished condition if fully utilized.”

The report, its data, and models used on it will be reviewed by the SSC, the stock assessment team, and the Groundfish Plan Team before the Council meeting in December, when specs are set. Next spring, the report is scheduled to be reviewed by the Center for Independent Experts.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1077936/Stunning-Preliminary-Report-Shows-Gulf-of-Alaska-Cod-Stocks-Down-By-a-Third-From-Expected-Levels

Politics

Judge weighs whether ballot initiative favors salmon over mining, oil
Alaska Public Media by Elizabeth Harball – October 3, 2017
Last month, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott rejected a potential ballot measure that would strengthen state law protecting salmon habitat. The state’s position is that if voters approved the measure, the legislature would be forced to protect salmon over other resource development, like mining or oil infrastructure.
http://www.alaskapublic.org/2017/10/03/judge-weighs-whether-ballot-initiative-favors-salmon-over-mining-oil/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+aprn-news+%28APRN%3A+Alaska+News%29

Federal Register

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Authorize Recreational Quota Entity To Participate in the Halibut IFQ Program
A Proposed Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 10/03/2017
NMFS issues a proposed rule that would authorize formation of a recreational quota entity (RQE) that could participate in the Pacific Halibut and Sablefish Individual Fishing Quota Program in International Pacific Halibut Commission Regulatory Areas 2C and 3A in the Gulf of Alaska. The RQE would be authorized to purchase and hold a limited amount of commercial halibut quota share that would yield additional pounds of recreational fishing quota on an annual basis to augment the amount of halibut available for harvest in the charter halibut fishery. The RQE would provide a mechanism for a compensated reallocation of a portion of commercial halibut quota share to the charter halibut fishery. This proposed rule is necessary to promote social and economic flexibility in the charter halibut fishery, and is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982, and other applicable laws.
https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/03/2017-20894/fisheries-of-the-exclusive-economic-zone-off-alaska-authorize-recreational-quota-entity-to

Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries Off West Coast States; Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery; Commercial Management Measures
A Proposed Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 10/04/2017
This advanced notice of proposed rulemaking provides information on a request by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) to announce deliberations of potential accumulation limits for Catcher Processor Permit use or ownership in the Pacific Coast groundfish fishery. The Council may not count any acquisition and usage of Catcher Processor permits and/or usage of Catcher Processor allocation after the date of June 13, 2017, in any decision setting accumulation limits. NMFS invites comments on this document.
https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/04/2017-21254/magnuson-stevens-act-provisions-fisheries-off-west-coast-states-pacific-coast-groundfish-fishery

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October 4, 2017