Catch of wall-eye pollock. (Photo: Ingrid Spies/afsc.noaa.gov)
Tuesday, August 28, 2012, 04:10 (GMT + 9)
Pollock trawlers in the Gulf of Alaska were put on notice this weekend to stop harvesting chinook salmon as bycatch or they will risk being asked to halt their fishing operations altogether.
A 25,000 fish limit was established on the number of chinook salmon that can be caught each year in the central and western Gulf of Alaska pollock fisheries, as per a rule recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) and implemented by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). If the fishery bycatch exceeds 25,000 kings, the fishery will be closed down.
Also per the rule, all chinook salmon caught by pollock trawlers must be delivered to a processing facility where an observer can count the number of salmon harvested and collect scientific data or biological samples. Since the rule is being implemented well into the fishing season, the limit for the rest of the year will be 14,527 chinooks, Cordova Times reports.
As far as chum salmon bycatch, the Bering Sea pollock season has seen far fewer.
“We really haven’t had a chum bycatch issue this year. We were shocked,” said Brent Paine, executive director of United Catcher Boats, representing pollock boats, Dutch Harbor Fisherman reports.
Trawlers caught only 7,060 non-chinook salmon, mainly chums, through 17 August, compared to 114,324 in 2011, according to NMFS.
Last year’s quota for both A and B seasons was nearly 50 per cent higher than in 2010, at 1,266,400 tonnes of pollock, with 92 per cent of the quota caught. The 813,000 ton-quota in 2010 was caught completely.
In 2011, the inshore catcher boats fell 10 per cent short of their total allocation but still landed far more pollock than in 2010. Also last year, the inshore sector’s 90 per cent harvest was 519,095 tonnes versus 2010’s smaller harvest rate of 99 per cent by weight, at 351,685 tonnes.
This year so far, a lot of pollock remained unharvested, from a total B season quota of 628,560 tonnes as of 17 August.
The international advocacy group Oceana has been advocating for a more protective rule than the 25,000 limit imposed on the pollock trawl fishery. This move comes in response to the diminishing trend of chinook harvests and chinook abundance in Alaska and on the entire Pacific coast for over 50 years.
There is good reason to believe that the threat of fishery closures will keep fleets in line and, in 2013, when increased observer coverage is implemented, that will be a good check on the numbers of fish caught, said Jon Warrenchuk, an ocean scientist with OCEANA.
By Natalia Real