Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

PSC Limits, Observers Discussed at NPFMC

 

April 1, 2018



Federal fisheries managers are reconsidering adjustments in the Chinook salmon prohibited species catch limits for non-pollock catcher vessels in the Gulf of Alaska, with final action now set for June in Kodiak.

After much discussion of an initial review draft during the February meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Seattle, revisions in the draft review analysis were approved, and the council put the matter back on its agenda for the spring meeting, April 2-10 in Anchorage.

Proposed changes in the PSC limits are rooted in concerns that harvesters could once again exceed the cap, resulting in closure of Pacific cod and other fisheries.

The proposed action would consider increasing Chinook salmon prohibited species limits and establishing an annual rollover of unused Chinook salmon PSC for the Gulf’s non-pollock non-rockfish program trawl catcher vessel sector and/or the Central Gulf Rockfish Program catcher vessel sector.

National Standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act require that the council balance objectives of achieving optimum yield, minimizing bycatch and minimizing adverse impacts on fishery-dependent communities. Chinook salmon PSC taken in the Gulf by trawl fisheries is a resource concern. The council previously set hard cap PSC limits that are below the incidental take amount that would trigger reconsultation under the Endangered Species Act. The trawl fishery is closed if the PSC hard cap is reached.

Since implementation of Chinook salmon PSC limits for the Gulf non-pollock groundfish trawl catcher vessel sector in 2015, the fishery has continued to show variable levels and unpredictable timing of salmon encounter, the council noted.

Potential closures and PSC encounter rates that vary from year to year or even week to week have created uncertainty for harvesters, and adversely affect trawl harvesters, crew, processors and coastal communities.

The motion passed by the council noted that alternatives to increase PSC limits or provide more flexibility under the existing PSC limits were offered in light of new information and multiple years of experience fishing under constraining hard caps for these fisheries in a limited access fishery with variable and unpredictable PSC rates.

The proposed action would not modify other existing features of the Gulf Chinook salmon PSC limits for non-pollock trawl fisheries such as PSC rollovers from the rockfish program catcher vessel sector to the limited access catcher vessel sector, and National Marine Fishery Service’s ability to make in-season king salmon PSC limit reapportionments between certain trawl sectors.

The council revised its three-meeting outlook to include final action during the April meeting on charter halibut annual permit registration and mixing of guided and unguided halibut, plus an initial review of halibut retention in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Island sablefish pot fishery.

The revised three-meeting outlook also includes final action on halibut retention in BSAI sablefish pots, an update on deck sorting regulatory analysis, a preliminary review of BSAI Pacific cod catcher vessel analysis, and discussion papers on Gulf of Alaska pollock and cod seasons and allocations and Gulf of Alaska Tanner crab observer efforts, and an expanded discussion paper on self- guided halibut rental boats at the June meeting.

The council also discussed North Pacific Observer Program issues, including observer and electronic monitoring projects, with prioritization of electronic monitoring and observer tasking.

The council noted it its motion on observer fee analysis that additional funding for monitoring in the partial coverage category may be necessary.

Deck sorting of halibut prohibited species catch with EM for compliance monitoring was chosen as the top priority, followed by evaluation of alternative sampling methods for salmon on Central Gulf rockfish trawl catcher vessels, full retention of American Fisheries Act pollock catcher vessels with EM compliance; full retention of Western Gulf pollock trawl catcher vessels with EM compliance, and implementation of EM on fixed gear catcher vessels greater than 40 feet in length.

The council approved a motion recognizing that it may be appropriate to further modify the hired master provision for the Individual Fishing Quota program to meet its objective of ensuring that halibut and sablefish fisheries are dominated by owner/operators. The motion notes that the council intends to carefully evaluate tradeoffs and benefits of limiting use of hired masters.

The observer annual deployment plan for 2019 is up for review at the council’s October meeting in Anchorage, with action to be taken as necessary.

A complete list of all motions passed, written testimony and the complete revised draft three-meeting outlook is online at http://www.npfmc.org.

 
 

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