The June 2016 North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) meeting ended today after five days of discussion surrounding Gulf of Alaska (GOA) groundfish trawl fisheries.  The GOA groundfish fishery does not have the quota system most Alaska fisheries are known for, assigning vessels specific amounts of fish.

This meeting consisted of the second review and commenting session on a discussion paper for a Trawl Bycatch Management Program.  The paper is intended to pave the way for an Environmental Impact Statement and eventual implementation of a trawl bycatch management program in the GOA.  Currently, the paper discusses groundfish quota, prohibited species catch, observer coverage, and the concept of forming a Community Fishery Association to allocate quota to communities, instead of the industry.

The Southeast Alaska charter industry is an indirect stakeholder in this program, and SEAGO is watching its progression through the Council for this reason.  Trawlers catch halibut and chinook salmon by the ton while out for groundfish, anywhere from a few metric tons to over a few hundred.  Each of the fish caught subtracts from the migratory schools guided anglers pay to go out and catch in Southeast.  By supporting the reduction of bycatch, we retain more halibut and chinook salmon to rebuild the populations and seek for sport catch.

The meeting focused on catch shares to allocate fishing privileges among the fleet and what this might mean for towns in coastal Alaska which rely on entry to the fishery.  Trawlers arrived by the dozens to testify, and threw a parade in downtown Kodiak to celebrate their fishery.  As the Program moves forward, interested charter industry members are encouraged to contact SEAGO to learn more about what they can do in support of reducing bycatch.

More information on this topic can be found on the NPFMC website: http://www.npfmc.org/goa-trawl-bycatch-management/