Other options sought to address GOA trawl bycatch

Federal fisheries managers will take no action for the indefinite future on a proposed Gulf of Alaska trawl bycatch management plan intended to provide the fleet with a structure under which to minimize prohibited species catch.

Instead the North Pacific Fishery Management Council indicated at its December meeting in Anchorage intent to consider other management options that could address trawl operators’ and processors’ concerns about their ability to minimize bycatch while viably engaging in the fishery.

The council spent hours considering the public comment scoping process undertaken this past summer, a preliminary draft social impact assessment and a preliminary draft regulatory impact review, plus public comment during the meeting itself.

The council has, since 2012, been working on development of a revised management structure for the Gulf groundfish trawl fisheries. It’s goal was to minimize prohibited species catch, butter utilize the allowed amount of PSC to harvest more groundfish, create additional value from the resource, and provide stability for Gulf communities dependent on fisheries.

The Council in December had four alternatives on which to base a preferred policy recommendation, the first of which called for no action, and retaining the existing management under the license Limitation Program.

Alternative 2 defined a catch share program with groundfish harvest and PSC use privileges allocated to voluntary cooperatives based on the fishing history associated with the Federal License Limitation Program licenses enrolled in each cooperative.

Alternative 3, added in October 2015, defined a program in which PSC limits were set for voluntary cooperatives and potentially, a limited access fishery, but groundfish quotas would not be allocated.   PSC under alternative 3 would have been allocated on the basis of vessels as opposed to licenses, and could have been allocated according to a combination of metrics that include equal shares, recent dependency on the Gulf trawl fishery, and participation in cooperative agreements.

Both alternatives 2 and 3 included elements that required 100 percent observer coverage and would have revised Pollock seasonal harvest apportionments and season dates for Pollock and Pacific cod.

Alternative 4, which could have only been selected in combination with Alternative 2, included two options for a program element that could provide additional community protections.