Alaska Cod Fishery Closes And Industry Braces For Ripple Effect
KUCB by Kavitha George - December 7, 2019
In an unprecedented response to historically low numbers of Pacific cod, the federal cod fishery in the Gulf of Alaska is closing for the 2020 season.
Halibut commission forecasts lower catches
Arctic Sounder by Laine Welch - December 6, 2019
Lower catches for Pacific halibut are in the forecast for the foreseeable future.
That was the message from the International Pacific Halibut Commission at its meeting last week in Seattle. The IPHC oversees halibut stock research and sets catch limits for nine fishing regions ranging from Northern California and British Columbia, to the Bering Sea.
Bering Sea TACs Set Amid Council Debate on Sablefish TAC
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - December 6, 2019
The complex process of setting total allowable catches (TACs) for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands’ (BSAI) two dozen species was highlighted yesterday by lively debate on how much to increase the sablefish (black cod) TAC due to an alarming increase of sablefish bycatch this year.
The process is usually focused on pollock, by far the most abundant and reliable species in the Bering Sea, and calculating the complex specs to add up to no more and no less than 2 million metric tons, the cap set by the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
For the 2020 season, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council set pollock TAC for the Eastern Bering Sea at 1,425,000 mt, a 2% increase from last year. The other pollock areas remained the same -- a TAC of 19,000 mt for the Aleutians and 75 mt for Bogoslof.
The second largest biomass is Pacific cod, which unlike pollock has showed a slight decline in the Bering Sea and an extreme decline in the Gulf of Alaska. The Council takes up Gulf specifications today and a key question is whether there will be a cod fishery in the Gulf next year.
For the Bering Sea, however, the Pacific cod TAC for 2020 is 141,799 mt, down 15% from this year’s TAC of 166,475 mt. As of November 2, 2019 catch to date has been 148,142 mt in the Bering Sea. The Aleutian Islands TAC also dropped, by almost 10%, to 13,796 mt for Pcod.
Council member Craig Cross made the motion to adopt the TACs as agreed to by an industry coalition made up of the fleets that target the groundfish species. A group that included representatives of the Groundfish Forum, United Catcher Boats, Pacific Seafood Processors Association, and the At-Sea Processors Association, submitted the TACs to the Council during public testimony.
Councilmember Kenny Downs moved to amend the motion to reduce the 2,174 mt TAC for sablefish, representing a 46% increase over the current TAC, to 1,861 mt or a more modest jump of 25%.
Arguments against the amendment relied on the advice of the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), which set the OFL and ABC earlier this week. The sablefish ABC is often, as with other groundfish species, also the TAC.
But in setting the higher ABC, a spokesperson for the SSC noted to the Council that the sablefish biomass is full of small fish which could be the only recruitment on the horizon for future catches. He noted that the Council may have “other options” to account for this vulnerable population when setting the TAC.
At least two Council members asked him to elaborate on what those options may be. He said he could not.
That exchange was noted by Dr. Jim Balsiger, councilmember and Assistant Administrator of NOAA Fisheries in Alaska.
“Other than reducing TAC to provide some protection for the biomass, I don’t know of other options,” Balsiger said.
Councilmember Cora Campbell agreed.
“I’m disturbed by a conversation I had with the head of the SSC, that the Council had ‘tools’, but if we didn’t have those ‘tools’ it would be a dilemma,” Campbell said.
This year's groundfish season was marked by an unexpected increase in sablefish bycatch, which exceeding the TAC, ABC, and nearly exceeded the overfishing limit. As of November 1, a total catch of 3,202 mt of all sizes of sablefish were caught, more that twice the ABC level of 1,489 mt and close to the OFL of 3,221 mt.
Down also supported his amendment with concern that the market impact of higher numbers of smaller fish has been negative, based on conditions this year. His final comment may have carried his motion to a final affirmative vote (8-3).
“We’ve been asked by every single group here who directly fishes for this species to lower the TAC because they’re concerned about the health of the stock and the market. That should get our attention,” he said.
With a lower sablefish TAC, the total BSAI TACs were 313 mt short of the 2 million mt cap. Cross added an amendment to increase the TAC on skates by that amount, which moved the catch level for next year to 16,313 mt, compared to this year’s TAC of 26,000 mt. As of November 1, a total catch of 17,873 mt. of skates had been posted.
Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Halibut Deck Sorting Monitoring Requirements for Trawl Catcher/Processors Operating in Non-Pollock Groundfish Fisheries Off Alaska; Correction
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 12/09/2019
NMFS is correcting a final rule that published on October 15, 2019, issuing regulations to implement catch handling and monitoring requirements to allow Pacific halibut (halibut) bycatch to be sorted on the deck of trawl catcher/processors (C/Ps) and motherships participating in the non-pollock groundfish fisheries off Alaska. The final rule incorrectly stated that the collection-of-information requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) had been approved by the Office of Management and Business (OMB) at the time the final rule was published. The final rule also inadvertently omitted amendatory language to remove a now obsolete and unnecessary regulation. The intent of this final rule is to make corrections and to stay the effectiveness of associated collection-of-information requirements.
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