BOF’s 2020 meeting vote looms
Peninsula Clarion by Victoria Petersen - October 22, 2019
This week, the Alaska Board of Fisheries will be holding a new vote on the location of the 2020 Upper Cook Inlet Finfish meeting during a work session.
Black cod bycatch in the Bering Sea surges
SeafoodSource by Ben Fisher - October 22, 2019
Trawlers in the Bering Sea have hauled up some 2,500 metric tons of black cod in bycatch circa the end of last month, according to a NOAA fisheries report.
Petersburg assembly to ask for hearing on humpback whale critical habitat
KFSK by Joe Viechnicki - October 22, 2019
Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday voted to seek a hearing in the Southeast Alaska community for proposed habitat protection for some of the humpback whales that frequent the region.
Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pacific Cod by Vessels Using Pot Gear in the Western Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 10/23/2019
NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for Pacific cod by vessels using pot gear in the Western Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is necessary to prevent exceeding the 2019 Pacific cod total allowable catch apportioned to vessels using pot gear in the Western Regulatory Area of the GOA.
Keynote Announcement: Pacific Marine Expo
National Fisherman by Jessica Hathaway - October 22, 2019
Pacific Marine Expo is still affectionately called Fish Expo, or simply Expo. This year, we’ll meet again at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field Event Center from Thursday, Nov. 21 through Saturday, Nov. 23.
Commentary: Stable hatchery production supports harvesters
Cordova Times by Guest Commentary - October 21, 2019
By Steve Reifenstuhl, Casey Campbell, Mike Wells, Tina Fairbanks, Eric Prestegard, Dean Day, David Landis and Bart Watson
In the early 1970s, Alaska’s salmon harvests were at an all-time low. Annual statewide harvests for all salmon species were down to nearly 29 million fish. As all Alaskans trying to fish for their business or sport or to fill a freezer at that time know, the lack of reliable harvests resulted in deep and painful impacts in our state and communities. Selective opening and even complete fishery closures failed to reverse the decline. So, too, did efforts to stop foreign vessels from fishing in state waters. It was a time, as the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner observed in 1970, “dominated by tragedy, disaster, intrigue and double-dealing.”
Opinion: Oceana Twists the Facts on Observer Program
SeafoodNews by Julie Bonney - October 22, 2019
The recent opinion piece by Jon Warrenchuk with Oceana noted that at its October meeting, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) increased the partial coverage observer sector fee from the current 1.25% to 1.65% of ex-vessel value. However, Mr. Warrenchuk failed to report the highly critical first action taken by the Council where they identified observer program cost efficiency as their highest priority for the partial coverage sector. The Council outlined an intent to both increase fee revenue and decrease observer cost per day, for the benefit of a sustainable monitoring program that we rely on to manage fisheries. The push to reduce costs and increase coverage rates has been driven primarily by the fishing industry, which includes both trawl and fixed gear vessels, and their efforts towards implementing electronic monitoring. In sum, you’re either working to make a real difference in the situation, or you’re just complaining.
Industry and community groups involved with the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea pollock trawl fisheries have been working diligently with the Council to develop electronic monitoring for these fisheries. In the Gulf of Alaska, these are smaller vessels ranging from 58 feet in length up to 124 feet, mostly Alaskan-owned family fishing businesses. Industry has procured their own funding, through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grants, which were used to install electronic monitoring systems on 42 pollock vessels in 2019. These vessels volunteered to test the use of cameras in a real-world environment, while simultaneously paying for and carrying human observers. Based on the promising results of this pilot project, industry further collaborated and applied for an Exempted Fishing Permit to further test operationalizing electronic monitoring for pelagic trawl catcher vessels in 2020 and 2021. When presented with the Exempted Fishing Permit application at the October Council meeting, scientists at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, the Council’s Science and Statistical Committee, and the Council all endorsed the permit. Developing electronic monitoring for the largest food fishery in the world is a tremendous task requiring close coordination and staff resources from the Observer Program, NMFS Alaska region, and all of the fishermen, tenders, and shoreside processors that have volunteered for the project.
Cost efficiency efforts for the partial coverage sector are also focused on electronic monitoring for fixed gear fisheries (groundfish and halibut), which has been implemented through regulation since 2018. This sector started the push for electronic monitoring in the North Pacific because of space limitations on vessels carrying observers, but the effort also has the potential to lower costs. The success of electronic monitoring in both the trawl and fixed gear fisheries requires development of a shoreside observer sampling program across multiple ports in Alaska, which is why the fishing industry has been working together toward this end, across areas and gear types.
All fishery sectors subject to partial coverage observer requirements pay the same fee percentage on their landings, no matter what level of observer coverage results from fee revenue. So why would any fishery work to develop electronic monitoring to reduce the cost of monitoring overall? One reason is because we can be much more efficient with fishery monitoring than we are today, and that is the Council’s goal. Another reason is that cost efficiencies in sectors that can effectively use electronic monitoring allow for savings that can be used to increase human observer coverage on vessels for which electronic monitoring doesn’t work. This includes both the bottom trawl fisheries referenced in the opinion piece as well as fixed gear vessels that opt out of carrying cameras.
Another item neglected by Mr. Warrenchuk’s opinion piece is the continuous effort by all fishing participants, both trawl and fixed gear, to secure additional federal funding to increase observer coverage in the partial coverage sector. Industry representatives lobbied Congress for additional appropriations to bridge the funding gap until the new revenue generated from the recently approved observer fee increase and efficiency gains from electronic monitoring becomes available. The Alaska delegation recognizes the importance of monitoring the nation’s most significant fisheries while supporting efforts to reduce costs – and we have confidence that additional funding will be provided to transition to a more cost-effective program that includes a combination of human at-sea observers, shoreside observers, and electronic monitoring.
Finally, the majority of the Gulf of Alaska trawl sector has long advocated for and continues to ask for a management change from an open access fishery to one comprised of regulated fishery cooperatives (similar to those in the Bering Sea). These cooperatives would create individual vessel accountability for fishing behavior and provide tools for the fleet to minimize bycatch. Because this system includes individual vessel accountability, it would naturally require higher levels of monitoring. However, as we just recently learned, changing the management structure of the Gulf trawl fisheries has not been identified by the Council or the administration as a priority - a major disappointment for the majority of the fishery participants. To improve our Gulf trawl fisheries, perhaps Oceana could help by advocating for a better management system for Gulf trawlers, or at a minimum, contribute to the ongoing work to use electronic monitoring as a way to reduce costs and increase coverage for all Gulf fisheries.
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