When it comes to trawl bycatch management in the Gulf of Alaska, many members of the fishing industry are concerned about the future for new entrants.
Two bycatch options currently before the North Pacific Fishery Management Council are alternative two, which would award catch based on harvesters’ historical participation, and alternative three, which would allocate the bycatch species among catcher boats.
Regardless of the pros and cons of each one, people are wary of established harvesters dominating the market. At Monday’s meeting in Kodiak, Council commissioner Sam Cotten proposed an overarching goal and objective statement that includes maintaining opportunities of entry.
Cotten said the state’s intent is to ensure that future participants have a similar pathway to entry as currently exists.
Later, he referenced Kodiak’s letter of input to the Council.
“Kodiak’s also made it very clear in their letter that they’re not interested in putting up any barriers for new processors,” Cotten said. “Alternative two may do that. The community of Kodiak has also asked specifically for active participation requirements as a gate to entering the fishery.”
Cotten mentioned one criticism that some people have brought up against alternative two – that it would limit new entry. Some say it would make entering the fisheries too expensive. Meanwhile, proponents for alternative three say it might open up access to entrants, and those against it say that it does little to stop the race for fish.
When it came time for comment, Councilman Craig Cross took issue with some wording in the statement, that the bycatch program should maintain the opportunity for entry by “limiting the duration of harvest privileges that may be allocated” with regard to target species and / or prohibited species.
“I’m a little confused because you’re being very prescriptive about one particular way to maintain opportunity, and there’s many more that we could do, and so I’m just wondering if your intent is to limit it with just that one, or if it’s just an example?” Cotten said. “But I think we would – you as the commissioner – and the council we’d want to have the opportunity to use many things to maintain opportunity.”
For instance, loan programs and set-asides, which Cotten said are also viable options, to which Cross responded that they need to do some wordsmithing to make that clear in the statement.
Councilman Glenn Merrill suggested an amendment to the motion, which altered the language as follows.
“The overarching goal of the Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management program is to promote the fleet tools for the effective management and reduction of PSC and bycatch, and promote increased utilization of both target and secondary species while minimizing economic barriers for new participants by limiting harvest privileges that may be allocated (target species and/or prohibited species) to maintain opportunity for entry into the GOA trawl fisheries,” Merrill said.
The main motion passed with that amendment included and may be subject to public comment in the future.
Furthermore, while the Council did not decide on a bycatch alternative at its meeting, it did adopt a series of revisions to the alternatives on the table.