Gulf trawlers back on the water after Chinook bycatch closure
August 13, 2015
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch — Gulf trawlers get a break from a Chinook bycatch closure. More after this –
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Trawlers are back out fishing for cod and flatfish in the Western and Central Gulf of Alaska after getting a reprieve from a closure in May when they tripped a new 2,700 bycatch cap on Chinook salmon. At the time, only half of the cod catch and just 10 percent of the flatfish were taken.
This year marks the first time Chinook salmon bycatch limits are in place for Gulf trawlers. A combined total of 32,500 Chinook are allowed as bycatch, split among different fisheries and sectors.
The pollock fishery, which is still well below its Chinook salmon bycatch for the year in both the Western and Central Gulf, and also limits in the flat fish and Pacific cod fisheries that apply to the Central Gulf rockfish program and also a limit that applies to catcher processors that are involved in flatfish in Pacific cod fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska. Those sectors are also well below their limits for this year.
Glenn Merrill is NOAA Fisheries Assistant Regional Administrator for the Alaska region in Juneau. In June the North Pacific Council voted 10 to 1 to request by emergency order that an additional 1,600 Chinook be provided as bycatch to the cod and flatfish trawlers for the remainder of 2015.
Given the fact that we are all well below our limits in the other sectors that are subject to limits, the Council felt that amount was appropriate. That amount of 1,600 Chinook salmon is also the historic average amount of Chinook salmon that the fleet uses from May until the end of the year. So the Council wanted to provide an opportunity, but provide an opportunity that wasn’t going to cause the trawl fleets overall to exceed the 32,500 limit and wanted to provide a limit that was representative of the historic use in the fishery during this specific period of time.
Merrill says emergency orders are used very infrequently, and in this case the move was based on the economic impacts to Kodiak and its resident workforce caused by the early closure.
That represents, depending on how you want to calculate it, about $5 million in exvessel value and about $12 million in first wholesale value. Those numbers also don’t necessarily accommodate the fact that there are downstream affects – anytime you shut a fishery, in particular the trawl fisheries kind of serve as a supplement between the various salmon fisheries, state water fisheries that are also occurring, so there are other economic impacts on processor workers, purchases in the community, utilities, other things like that were impacted by the closure. And that is definitely something the council considered when making the recommendation.
The pollock, cod and flatfish caught by its fleet of about 35 trawlers comprise Kodiak’s largest and most valuable fishery, valued at more than $86 million at the docks in 2012.
The emergency rule only applies to the end of this year. Merrill says the Council will begin to revisit the Gulf Chinook bycatch caps in October to see if there are better management solutions.
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Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. (www.oceanbeauty.com) In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.