With one council member absent, an emergency action proposal to reduce Bering Sea halibut bycatch limits for 2015 failed on a tie vote by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council Dec. 13.
The failed motion, introduced by council member Duncan Fields of Kodiak, would have lowered the 2015 Bering Sea halibut bycatch limit by 33 percent from the current limit of more than 10 million pounds allocated between the pollock and bottom trawl fleets.
Concerns over the fate of the directed halibut fishery in the Pribilof Islands prompted lengthy discussion during the December meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage.
Council member Duncan Fields of Kodiak introduced a motion for emergency regulation to reduce the 2015 BSAI halibut bycatch allocation by 33 percent, out of concern for harvesters in areas C, D and E, saying that to avoid such emergency action would be shirking the council’s responsibility for fisheries management.
A struggle in Alaska over shrinking supplies of halibut is threatening the iconic centerpiece fish in favor of cheaper exports, fast-food fillets and fish sticks.
If expected cuts are made in January, halibut fishing could be over in the Bering Sea west of Alaska, the source of one-sixth of halibut caught in the United States. That catch includes most of the frozen supply that sustains restaurants, food-service companies and retail stores nationwide, such as Costco and Whole Foods.
The 2014 charter halibut catch exceeded the allocations in both Southeast and Southcentral despite projections last winter that the management measures would keep anglers within the limits for each area.
Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks have been studying the waters in the Gulf of Alaska and found that the warmer than normal temperatures are averaging one to five degrees warmer than the September average of 55-57 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Seward Line is the long-term monitoring site in the Gulf of Alaska. It helps scientists understand the details of what is happening in the waters over the Alaska shelf.
If measured in sheer volume of fish, the Upper Cook Inlet commercial harvest of salmon was low: preliminary Fish and Game estimates show it at about 20 percent less than the 10-year average harvest. But, when price-per-pound is factored in, the exvessel value of the 2014 harvest was high at $35 million — making it the second year in a row that Cook Inlet commercial harvesters have seen lower-than-average harvests with higher-than-average values.
How do you solve a problem like bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries?
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council devoted hours of its fall meeting in Anchorage to that question, finally emerging with a motion calling for analysis of a number of alternatives and options.
The three alternatives to be considered include taking no action, a trawl bycatch management program for the Western Gulf, Central Gulf and West Yakutat area, and an alternative with a community fisheries association allocation or adaptive management program.
The Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association is pleased to announce that Copper River coho will be featured at two culinary events in September—Alaska Public Media’s Second Annual Sustainable Chef on September 28th in Anchorage and the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America event on September 26th in Seattle. Both events highlight regional foods, chefs and sustainability. The venues will be a unique opportunity to taste and sample this year’s robust and healthy commercial coho harvest.
Cook Inlet setnetting has been an integral part of the Kenai Peninsula’s economy for more than a century, employing hundreds of hard working families who spend their summers harvesting a living from the inlet’s robust salmon runs.
Changes effective Dec. 1 in the Pacific halibut and sablefish fisheries in the Bering Sea/ Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska will require owners of catcher vessel sector individual fishing quota to be on board, rather than a hired skipper.
The IFQ program had allowed initial recipients of catcher vessel halibut and sablefish quota share to hire a vessel master to harvest the annual allocation of IFQ derived from the quota share.
The Cook Inlet drift fleet is largely done fishing for the summer, with a catch of more than 2 million salmon.
Through Aug. 12, when fishing had ended in most areas, the fleet had landed 1.4 million sockeyes, 402,138 pinks, 65,678 silvers and 107,299 chums according to call-in estimates provided by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
United Cook Inlet Drift Association Executive Director Roland Maw said the average drifter caught about 18,000 pounds of sockeye. Most fishermen saw lower catch per unit effort, or CPUE, this summer.
A federal judge ruled Thursday to uphold the federal decision to remove Cook Inlet from the salmon fishery management plan.
Alaska has managed salmon since statehood, and the National Marine Fisheries Service removed Cook Inlet salmon from the federal fishery management plan, or FMP, after the North Pacific Fishery Management Council unanimously voted in December 2011 to officially delegate that authority to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Eligible Cook Inlet fishermen will receive a $2,000 fixed payment, plus a percentage based on their landings history from 2007 to 2011, according to National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, spokeswoman Julie Speegle.
According to information provided by the National Marine Fisheries Service, an estimated 443 permit holders from Cook Inlet’s East Side setnet fishery will be eligible to apply for payments, as will an additional 96 Northern District fishermen.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week the approval of the first grant application to assist fishermen affected by the 2012 commercial fisheries failure in the Yukon Chinook, Kuskokwim Chinook and Cook Inlet fisheries.