Federal fisheries managers have indefinitely postponed further action on modifications to Chinook salmon prohibited species catch limits for Gulf of Alaska trawl catcher vessels in non-Pollock fisheries.
The decision came on a vote of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council during its spring meeting in Anchorage in early April. The council also directed its staff to develop a report, as the requisite information becomes available, on the status of king salmon runs and escapement in Alaska, British Columbia and U.S. West Coast stocks, the progress of Pacific Salmon Treaty negotiations, and performance of Gulf of Alaska non-pollock trawl catcher vessel fisheries subject to Chinook prohibited species limits.
Action on the issue could have either increased limits or added flexibility in the form of annual rollovers of unused prohibited species catch for trawl vessels targeting Pacific cod, rockfish and flatfish in the central and western gulf, noted staff economist Sam Cunningham, in the council’s April newsletter.
The alternatives the council considered were developed as a re-visitation of whether the exiting prohibited species catch limits were appropriately balancing management objectives, given the best information most recently available.
Chinook prohibited species catch in the Gulf fishery come predominantly from the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, and to a lesser degree from Southeast Alaska and the Northwest Gulf of Alaska, including Cook Inlet, Kodiak and the eastern Aleutians.
The council had determined, after reviewing alternatives at its February meeting in Seattle and April meeting in Anchorage that modifying the limit was not appropriate at this time, because of concerns about the status of Chinook stocks known to occur as bycatch in the Gulf non-pollock trawl fishery. Council members also noted the possibility that federal actions related to Chinook salmon removals related to Chinook removals could create an unintended interference with the renegotiation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty currently under way.
Written testimony received by the council on this issue included a letter from the Kodiak Island Borough and City of Kodiak, urging adjustment of the PSC caps in the non-pollock trawl groundfish fisheries to prevent more economically damaging fishery closures.
The current Chinook cap of 2,700 fish is an annual limit shared by trawl fleets in the Western Gulf (Sand Point and King Cove) and the Central Gulf (Kodiak), wrote Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Dan Rohrer and City of Kodiak Mayor Pat Branson. The Western Gulf fleet fishes non-pollock trawl targets only in the first quarter of the year, while the Central Gulf trawl fleet fishes non-pollock targets all year long, they said. If the cap is reached and provokes a management closure of the trawl fisheries, it impacts Central Gulf participants, support sectors and communities disproportionately since the cap must support Kodiak non-pollock non-rockfish trawl landings throughout the calendar year, they said.