Fish Radio

Cutting salmon bycatch in Bering Sea pollock fishery, comments wanted

January 20, 2016

Pollock fishing aboard the F/V Ocean Hope 3 Credit:

Pollock fishing aboard the F/V Ocean Hope 3

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Comments are wanted on cutting salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. More after this —

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Federal fish managers are proposing changes to the Bering Sea pollock fishery to better reduce bycatch of Chinook and chum salmon, and they want input from the public.

The fishery now has separate programs to account for takes of the two salmon species – for Chinook, incentives are provided to each vessel to avoid  bycatch  at all times. For chum salmon, Intercooperative agreements help the fleets avoid areas of high bycatch. The North Pacific Council wants to  integrate the two programs.

We want to improve the functioning of these programs so there are not two separate programs , they are integrated and the fleet can focus on avoiding both chum salmon and Chinook salmon, and then they wanted to make sure the fleet had the tools to be able to avoid Chinook  salmon in years of low Chinook salmon abundance.

Gretchen Harrington is the National Environmental Policy Act coordinator for NOAA’s Alaska region and leader for the salmon bycatch project. The goal, she says, is to enable the fleets to operate under one incentive agreement.

The incentive plan agreement is a document created by the pollock fishermen that explains exactly how they are going to provide incentives for each vessel to avoid Chinook and chum salmon bycatch through the tools they already are using, like the rolling hot spot system,  and then there is also a provision  in the proposed rule that adjusts the allocation of pollock between the  A season and the B season to provide five percent more pollock in the A season so it can be harvested when there is less chance for bycatch, to try to spread the season out to avoid fishing for pollock at times when they have high Chinook bycatch.

A season is winter; B season is in the summer.

Harrington says a new key piece of the agreement includes adjusting Chinook bycatch limits downwards when the state forecasts low abundances for a following year.

A limit of 60,000 fish is in place for Chinook salmon; the bycatch last year was 18,330.  For chum, the take was 237,795. After the lengthy rule making process, Harrington says the new pollock program should be in place by next year.

Public comments  are wanted on the salmon bycatch reduction plan by March 8.

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