SitNews: One of Alaska’s Most Troubling Fishing Problems: Bycatch By LAINE WELCH

fish factor

One of the biggest fishing problems in Alaska: bycatch


March 15, 2022
Tuesday PM

(SitNews) – I must give credit to the Dunleavy administration for being the first to try to solve one of Alaska’s most troubling fishing problems: bycatch.

The governor established an Alaska Bycatch Review Task Force (ABRT) in November 2021 “to help better understand unintentional bycatch of high-value fisheries resources in state and federal waters.”

He defined bycatch as “fish that is harvested from a fishery but not sold or retained”.

The 13-member group will release a final report based on these best understandings in November 2022.

“Once the task force structure is set, it will be a good roadmap for how we can incorporate the voices of everyday Alaskans into the decision-making process,” Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang said in announcing the announcement. ‘ABRT, “because they own these resources.”

Since January, the ABRT has met online three times and formed four committees and sub-committees focusing on 1) science, technology and innovation; 2) Western Alaska salmon; 3) crab from the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, and 4) halibut and salmon from the Gulf of Alaska.

A new public page launched last week on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game home site includes agendas, minutes and audio from all meetings. The reference library also features presentations by state and federal managers and an overview of genetic identification of salmon stocks taken as bycatch in Alaska’s groundfish fisheries.

All fisheries are plagued by bycatch of unwanted species, due to their size or out of season or on the “cannot catch” gear list. It includes several million tons of fish and crabs which, by law, must be discarded each year.

It is undeniable that the trawl sector bears the brunt of the bycatch burden. There’s no denying that they hate throwing fish overboard as much as any other angler.

Alaskans have been angry and frustrated by the waste demanded by the federal government for decades, but it took the shutdown of the Yukon chum salmon subsistence fishery last summer to really draw attention people.

While village smokehouses and freezers remained empty, the trawlers had no limit on their chum bycatch and carried on as usual.

“We need to communicate directly with affected communities,” ABRT member Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) said at the March 9 meeting. “That’s something we have to think about when we’re developing a product – how we’re going to have two-way communications with the people who got us to this point where we have a bycatch task force in the first place.”

Providing information that “everyday Alaskans” can understand is critical, said ABRT Vice President Tommy Sheridan.

“How can bycatch reports in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska be more easily accessible and simplified for the public to review and understand? he says as an example.

Sincerely, good luck with that.

Federal catch accounting is readily available and incredibly inclusive. But the data and reports contain a confusing hodgepodge of hard-to-interpret metrics, acronyms, and descriptions, like this definition:

“Bycatch = discarded fish. Economic discards: harvested fish that could be legally preserved, but are of insufficient value to be preserved. Regulatory discards: harvested fish that are regulated by regulation to be discarded each time they are caught, or that are regulated by regulation to be retained but not sold. Prohibited Species Catch (PSC): A special type of regulatory discard that must be returned to sea with minimal injury = Pacific halibut, herring, salmon, rainbow trout, king crab, bairdi, opili crab. »

At least two “listening sessions” are planned “where all we’re doing is taking input from the public,” said ABTR member Stephanie Madsen, director of the At-Sea Processors Association.

The “owners of these resources” will “raise their voices” and ask lots of questions.

Why, for example, is crab considered PSC in the Bering Sea but not in the Gulf?

And why are managers using a different mix of crab and pound counts that don’t add up in bycatch reports?

Why are “Other Salmon” (Chum) considered PSC but not assigned caps?

If a PSC cap is reached, managers say a fishery will be closed. But when trawlers in the Bering Sea approached their 2020 herring cap, it was quickly doubled by emergency action.

Why have trawlers been allowed to exceed their sablefish bycatch limits by 356% and 484% in consecutive years, exceeding 11 million pounds?

What are PSQ, CDQ and COBLZ in the weekly bycatch updates?

And why is there almost no public information or data on bycatch in state fisheries (up to three miles)?

Member Brian Gabriel, Mayor of the City of Kenai, pointed out at the meeting that “this task force was formed because of public outrage at things that may or may not be accurate.”

“We will be spending time over the next few months providing more specific information on what is really going on and some possible solutions,” Gabriel added. “If we don’t have a way to disseminate information, what we do will be of very little value to those most affected.”

BOF meets empty seat names / NPFMC:

The State Board of Fisheries meets March 10-22 in Anchorage minus one member. On March 11, Governor Dunleavy had not named a replacement for Indy Walton who resigned in December. Alaska law says a nomination must be made within 30 days, but “the seat is vacant until a nomination is made,” spokesman Jeff Turner said.

The Council reviews subsistence, commercial, sport, and personal fishing proposals for the Southeast and Yakutat.

Governor Dunleavy named Nicole Kimball and Angela Drobnica to seats on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

Kimball, who is a vice president and fisheries policy analyst for the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, was selected for a second three-year term.

Drobnica is Director of Fisheries and Government Affairs for the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association and a member of the Council’s Advisory Committee.

Drobnica will replace Cora Campbell, CEO of Silver Bay Seafoods if the appointments are approved by the US Secretary of Commerce. Terms begin in August.

Publication fee required.
Wool Welch ©2022

Wool can be attached to msfish[AT]

Stories in the news
Ketchikan, Alaska

Articles and photographs that appear in SitNews are considered copyrighted and may not be reprinted without written permission and payment of required fees to appropriate sources.

Email your news and photos to [email protected]

Photographers who choose to submit photographs for publication to SitNews do so, granting their publication and archive permission. SitNews does not sell photographs. All requests to purchase a photograph will be emailed to the photographer.

About Patricia Kilgore

Check Also

Rob Phillips: Columbia fish numbers strong, supported by shad and sockeye salmon | Outdoors and leisure

The folks who oversee fish counting procedures at dams on the lower Columbia River have …