Until just a few months ago, there was no limit on Chinook salmon bycatch in any trawl fishery in the Gulf of Alaska. In August 2012, a 25,000 fish cap on the Gulf pollock fishery went into effect. This historic cap is important, but there is another offender out there. Other trawl fisheries in the Gulf also catch Chinook salmon as bycatch while targeting flatfish, cod and rockfish. On average these other fisheries are responsible for about one third of the Chinook salmon bycatch every year, but in some years they’ve been responsible for 60 percent or more of the bycatch.
In 2010, these other Gulf trawl fisheries caught nearly 10,000 Chinook salmon as bycatch. At the same time, Chinook salmon throughout the Gulf are declining dramatically, at great cost to those who depend on healthy salmon populations for their livelihoods.
Runs were so poor in 2012 that the Secretary of Commerce declared a fisheries disaster for Cook Inlet Chinook salmon. The set-net fishery was almost completely shut down in 2012, and the Kenai River was closed to all Chinook salmon fishing. Economic losses in Cook Inlet to commercial fishing alone are estimated at almost $10 million, with another $17.7 million to sport fishing and additional losses to subsistence fishers.
While set-netters were shut down for fear of catching a few hundred fish, the Gulf trawl fisheries are allowed to catch thousands, according to the Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AMCC). The Gulf non-pollock trawl fisheries are the only fishery left which catches a significant amount of salmon bycatch, yet does not have a limit.
“It’s critical that we close this loophole and put a cap in place,” the AMCC says.
What You Can Do to Reduce Chinook Salmon Bycatch?
At their meeting in Anchorage scheduled for December 3-11, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (the Council) will consider a bycatch cap range between 5,000 and 12,500 Chinook salmon. This step is called initial review, with final action tentatively scheduled for April. While not the final stage of decision-making, it is critical that the case is made now for putting in place the lowest cap under consideration, the AMCC says.
Attend the December Council Meeting in Anchorage
The Council is scheduled to take up Gulf Chinook salmon bycatch starting on Friday, December 7 through Sunday, December 9, at the Anchorage Hilton. Anglers can provide testimony in person at the Council meeting.
“It’s critical that the Council hears directly from people impacted by the Chinook salmon shortages and closures about the need to reduce bycatch in the trawl fleet,” says the AMCC.
If you can’t attend the Council meeting in person, make sure to send in a letter before the meeting. Letters must be received by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, November 27. Make sure to write “C-2(c): GOA Chinook bycatch all trawl fisheries” on your letter. Send letters to: North Pacific Fishery Management Council, 605 West 4th Ave, Suite 306 Anchorage, AK 99501 Email: [email protected] Fax: 907-271-2817
Points to Include in Letters/Testimony
• As a sport halibut fisherman, I strongly support reductions in Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon bycatch in all trawl fisheries.
• The Council should set a cap of 5,000 Chinook salmon for the non-pollock fisheries in the GOA as a starting point. Bycatch must be reduced further in future actions.
• Chinook salmon have declined severely throughout Alaska: Commercial fishery failures and disasters were declared for the Upper Cook Inlet, Yukon River and Kuskokwim River.
• The Gulf non-pollock fisheries are the only fishery left which catches significant amounts of salmon bycatch, yet has no limit.
• Chinook salmon is critical to subsistence, sport and commercial fisheries, and a major contributor to the economy and culture of Alaska.
• All other users have to reduce their harvest to conserve Chinook salmon in years of low returns, the trawl fisheries must do the same.
• National Standard 9 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires that bycatch be reduced. Contact Council Members and the Governor’s Office Visit the Council website for a list of Council members or more information on the measures being considered to reduce bycatch.
Also call Governor Sean Parnell and let the State of Alaska know how you feel about wasting valuable fish as bycatch. To reach the Governor’s office dial 907-465-3500 or email [email protected] Stay tuned to AMCC’s website at www.akmarine.org and look for enews updates with additional information.