Four people are safe after their fishing tender sank off Cape Fairweather early Wednesday morning (6-10-15).

A helicopter from Air Station Sitka hoisted the crew of the 80-foot tender, just as the vessel rolled and sank in six-foot seas near Lituya Bay.

The Kupreanof was en route from Petersburg to Bristol Bay to tender salmon when it ran into trouble at about 3:45 AM in an area known as the Fairweather grounds, about 110 miles northwest of Sitka.

Mediation talks are set to begin June 8 in Seattle regarding participation in a Marine Stewardship Council client group for Alaska salmon certification held by the Seattle-based Alaska Seafood Processors Association.

After several days of emotional testimony, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted on Sunday afternoon to reduce limits on halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea – by 21 percent overall.

Many in the groundfish fleet say it will take a big toll on their industry. But halibut fishermen in the Bering Sea say the cut isn’t big enough to save their communities.

The Bering Sea is a tough, unforgiving environment. As Alaska Native peoples we have survived and flourished for thousands of years by sustainably harvesting this sea’s bounty, including the noble Pacific halibut. Our home, the island of Saint Paul in the Pribilof Islands, is located in the central Bering Sea in the heart of the nation’s richest commercial fisheries.

In Sunday’s guest column, the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association referred to trawl fishing as a grave threat and an “environmentally disastrous policy” that has devastated their halibut fishery and “plundered the Bering Sea.”

As a fishery scientist who has worked for more than 20 years with trawl fishermen to reduce salmon, crab and halibut bycatch, I find the recent rhetoric around proposed North Pacific Fisheries Management Council changes to the Bering Sea halibut bycatch cap very frustrating. In particular, I hear media campaigns underwritten by environmental NGOs claiming, “It’s been 20 years since the halibut bycatch cap was last reduced,” implying that this has created a conservation issue.

Shelikof Strait, in the Gulf of Alaska, is an important spawning area for walleye pollock, the target of the largest--and one of the most valuable--fisheries in the nation. This year, a team of NOAA Fisheries scientists went there to turn their usual view of the fishery upside-down.

Alaska’s celebrated Copper River salmon fishery is off and running, with first run kings and sockeyes paying record prices of $8 and $5.25 a pound respectively to harvesters. And in the marketplace seafood aficionados were lining up in Anchorage to pay $31.95 a pound for Chinook fillets and $24.99 a pound for fillets of red salmon.

Nowhere do people have as much opportunity to speak their minds to fish policymakers as in Alaska. And as a key decision day approaches, a groundswell of Alaska voices is demanding that fishery overseers slash the halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea.

Many Alaskans are speaking out against the more than 6 million pounds of halibut dumped overboard each year as bycatch in trawl fisheries targeting flounder, rockfish, perch, mackerel and other groundfish -- not pollock.

In the last ten years, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands trawl fisheries have killed and discarded 62.6 million pounds of halibut as bycatch. A significant percentage of these juvenile halibut, averaging a little less than five pounds, would have migrated over time to the east, populating the Gulf of Alaska, Southeastern Alaska, and eventually all the way to Northern California. So although the bycatch of halibut is occurring far away in the Bering Sea, its effect is being felt all over Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.