Hatchery salmon help Alaska avert fishery disaster
Seafood Source by Brian Hagenbuch - November 28, 2018
Around mid-August this year, the fishing season in Southeast Alaska looked grim. Some areas had posted the lowest pink salmon landings since the 1970s, and the total pink catch would end up at just around 70 percent of the paltry 23 million fish forecast. For comparison, the 18 million pinks caught in 2016 prompted a disaster declaration from the federal government.
Poor pink runs forecast again; return to ‘normal’ in Bristol Bay
Alaska Journal of Commerce by Elizabeth Earl - November 28, 2018
Next summer may be a slow one for Southeast and Bristol Bay salmon fishermen.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s annual salmon forecasts for the Southeast and Bristol Bay regions predict weaker runs for the 2019 season. In Southeast’s case, it’s the pink salmon predicted to come up short compared to recent averages; in Bristol Bay, it’s the sockeye.
Pacific Halibut Stock Assessment Slightly Down, 2019 Catch Limits TBD in January
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - November 28, 2018
The results of the 2018 survey and stock assessment for Pacific halibut were released earlier this week and the industry is again faced with numbers that may not ring alarm bells, but still call for prudent decisions on catch limits.
Although both fishing intensity and total catch dropped from 2017 to 2018, the spawning biomass (adult females in the population) also decreased slightly. This is the result of little recruitment, a problem that is expected to continue for the next few years.
No one really knows why recruitment is so low. Research to answer that and other questions is part of a five-year research plan the Seattle-based International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) began in 2017.
Meanwhile, annual survey results announced at the IPHC interim meeting were similarly gloomy. The weight per unit effort (WPUE) calculated for the survey and for the commercial fleet coastwide and by regulatory area, showed a general downward trend. The coastwide survey WPUE dropped by 5% this year compared to 2017.
Worst hit in the survey WPUE was a 19% drop in 2C (Southeast Alaska), 13% drop in 3A (Western Gulf of Alaska), and a 10% drop in 4A (Bering Sea). Smaller declines (ranging from 2%-5%) were seen in 2A (WA, OR, and CA), 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska), and 4CDE (Pribilof Islands and north).
The survey also showed moderate increases of WPUE in 2B (British Columbia) and 4B (Aleutian Islands) by 6% and 12% respectively.
Understandably, the fleet’s WPUE differs significantly since fishermen are not restricted to a grid and go where they think the fish are. But coastwide, an overall 11% drop in WPUE was posted for the 2018 season. That’s more than double what the standarized, grid-based survey showed.
This year for the first time, IPHC looked at WPUE for fixed hooks separate from snap-on gear in the commercial fleet.
In Southeast Alaska, longlines with fixed-hooks caught 12% less than last year while longlines with snap gear caught 5% more on a WPUE basis. But in nearby British Columbia, both types of longline gear performed poorly compared to last year’s WPUE, but only slightly worse: 2% down for fixed hooks and 5% down for snap gear.
In the central Gulf, fixed gear’s WPUE was 8% down from last year, while snap gear was the same as last year. In the Western Gulf, however, both fixed and snap gear’s WPUE declined by 29% and 22% respectively from last year, the worst performance of all areas.
WPUE for Bering Sea fleets dropped for those using fixed hooks (by 6%) while the WPUE for snap gear in the same area rose 17%.
WPUE was measured separately for tribal and non-tribal boats in Washington, Oregon, and California. Non-tribal WPUE dropped 15% from last year, while tribal boats rose 44% higher WPUE than last year.
These details may seem more confusing than helpful, but it is precisely that level of detail that will be used to support a range of catch limits, given the characteristics of the area’s fleets, for 2019.
IPHC’s survey team also monitored the numbers of fish caught of NPUE (in addition to the weight per skate), for another look at what was available in this year’s ocean.
In each of the regions except 4B, the numbers were down. The worst region was 2 with a 15% decline in NPUE from last year. The other three regions (Region 3, 4, and 4B -- 4B is the Aleutians and often considered almost a separate stock because trends are seen only there) showed declines in single digits, for a coastwide average of 7% down from 2017.
IPHC’s scientists then presented the results of their modeling of the data, using an approach similar to that used by meteorologists predicting where a hurricane will land -- an ensemble of models that gives a more realistic idea of uncertainty, which is a stronger basis for risk assessment.
The process of determining catch limits, which the IPHC will do in January, is all about gauging risk against return.
This year’s catch limit decision table showed different levels of fishing intensity across the top (from no fishing to the highest in 50 years), and what the impact would be on the 1) the stock trend, 2) how close the stock may come to alarm reference points, and 3) at what risk it will put future catches. The resulting matrix shows the odds stakeholders -- both resource managers and business owners -- can expect at different levels of catch.
This year the IPHC is proposing two new rules -- to set fixed dates for the opening and closing of the season, and to consider extended openings in 2A to increase safety and reduce the derby-style aspect, one of the last remaining, of the fishery. Catch limits in that region would not be affected by the extended periods.
Proposals from the industry included changing the fishery in 2A to an IFQ program, a concept that drew many questions from the commissioners, and will likely draw more comments from the industry at the annual meeting.
IPHC’s annual meeting will be held at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C. January 25-February 1, 2019. Catch limits, season dates, and recommendations for new or revised regulations for 2019 will be announced on February 1.
All of the reports from the IPHC’s Interim meeting can be found here.
Bristol Bay businesses, fishermen and advocacy shine at 2018 Pacific Marine Expo
KDLG by Avery Lill - November 27, 2018
The Pacific Marine Expo brought Bristol Bay fishermen down to Seattle to peruse gear and discuss economics and the environment.
Nominations now being accepted for 2019 Seafood Champion Awards
Seafood Source by Madelyn Kearns - November 28, 2018
Nominations for the 2019 Seafood Champion Awards, which recognize outstanding contributions to sustainable seafood and ocean conservation, are now being accepted, joint organizers Diversified Communications and SeaWeb announced on Wednesday, 28 November.
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