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.

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.”

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.

While studying Chinook salmon in the Bering Sea, researchers have found themselves in the wake of an unlikely killer.

Andrew Seitz is a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who has spent the past several years studying Chinook salmon. He said the first sign of foul play came from satellite tags used in his research this winter. The tags gather behavior and migration data for the salmon, taking temperature and depth readings every two minutes — then relaying them to researchers by satellite later on.

The years 2002 through 2005 were bad for Bering Sea pollock. The biomass plunged during those years. In a presentation in Washington, D.C., a NOAA fisheries biologist said today ongoing research points to two suspects: ice and fat, in league with each other.

Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young’s bill to reauthorize and amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act was marked up and favorably reported to the U.S. House of Representatives by the House Natural Resources Committee on April 30. The bill, titled the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,” cleared the committee with 21-14 vote.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries system -- to paraphrase Winston Churchill -- is the worst way to regulate fisheries, except for all the others.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will hold its second meeting of 2015 from April 8-14 at the Anchorage Hilton.

The council's biggest agenda item will be final action on measures to reduce chinook and chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. The alternatives, introduced for public review in December 2014, include both voluntary and regulatory controls to shorten seasons, provide incentives, and reduce bycatch caps.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will hold its second meeting of 2015 from April 8-14 at the Anchorage Hilton.

The council’s biggest agenda item will be final action on measures to reduce chinook and chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. The alternatives, introduced for public review in December 2014, include both voluntary and regulatory controls to shorten seasons, provide incentives, and reduce bycatch caps.