After days of scientific subcommittees, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council had its first round of meetings Wednesday in Nome. The Council heard reports from fisheries across the North Pacific.
When it comes to Bering Sea pollock, catches remain flat. Glenn Merrill, an Assistant Regional Administrator for the Council, said this year’s catch is “almost identical to what it was last year at this time.”
But the Chinook bycatch within the pollock fishery is higher than last year’s rates—a major issue as subsistence fishermen along the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers face unprecedented restrictions in anticipation of one of the worst king salmon runs on record.
Merrill reported, “The total Chinook salmon bycatch last year at this time last year was 8,237 fish. And the current Chinook salmon bycatch is 11,536. The rates are slightly higher this year for that same metric tonnage.”
Merrill also said, halibut bycatch is also higher—by about 12-percent—this year.
On the Russian side of the Strait, pollock fisheries are in full swing as well. Coast Guard Capt. Phillip Thorne said the Russian pollock fishery opened on May 15 of this year. Seven vessels are operating within 20 nautical miles of the maritime boundary line. Thorne said the Coast Guard patrolled the line May 29 through 31 and is continuing to send out patrol ships and aircraft as the season progresses.
As for other species in the Bering Sea, snow crab were slightly down. Karla Bush with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said the season ended about two weeks earlier than it had in the past.
When the floor opened for public comment, representatives from At-Sea Processors Association, United States Seafood, and Glacier Fish Company asked the Council to reapportion 100 metric tons of halibut bycatch for this year. The representatives said the measure would help “maximize” catches of yellowfin sole and cod. The representatives said fisheries could enter a voluntary agreement to capture 60-percent of the reapportion and leave 40-percent in the water for future savings. The Council said it will examine this request on Saturday at 1:00 pm.
The Council continues its meetings in Nome today at the Mini Convention Center. Today’s two topics are the Observer Program for Tendering and Electronic Monitoring.