Coastal Alaskans ask federal council to cap gulf bycatch
June 3rd, 2011 | Alaska Newspapers Staff
More than 500 residents of Alaska's coastal communities have signed a letter urging the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to put a cap on the number of king salmon that may be caught incidentally in Gulf of Alaska Pollock trawl fishery.
The signers, including commercial, sport and subsistence fish harvesters, are urging the federal council, which will meet in Nome June 6-14, to support a 22,500 hard cap to reduce the Chinook salmon bycatch.
"While we feel that 15,000 is a more appropriate hard cap because it represents an actual reduction from historical averages, we support the preliminary preferred alternative as an important- and long overdue- first step at placing limitations on the waste of Chinook salmon in the Gulf of Alaska Pollock fishery," the signers said in their petition.
The signers also said they would like to see expanded observer coverage for trawl vessels which currently carry no observers and increased observer coverage for all Pollock trawl vessels within the restructured observer program, in order to increase confidence in the accuracy of the data.
In addition, the signers said they support the requirement for 100 percent retention of all salmon species to provide additional data on which to base sound management decisions.
The signers said that significant and unrestricted Chinook salmon bycatch has occurred in the Gulf of Alaska for decades and that the level of bycatch is unacceptable, particularly in a time in which many Gulf of Alaska salmon stocks are struggling, and this puts undue hardship on Alaska's commercial, sport, recreational, personal use and subsistence salmon harvesters.
The petition, signed May 31, was addressed to council chairman Eric Olson. It was accompanied by a letter from the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, which urged the council to put "a meaningful limit" on Chinook salmon bycatch in the Pollock trawl fisheries.
"Chinook salmon are a vital and essential component of our communities, our cultures and our economies in the Gulf of Alaska," wrote Theresa Peterson, Kodiak outreach coordinator for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, and herself a commercial fish harvester "There is broad support from coastal Alaskans to get Chinook bycatch under control. The Alaska Marine Conservation Council supports moving forward with final action on initial measures to reduce Chinook bycatch."
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