Bycatch limits cripple fishermen ;Alaska groundfish ; new manegement plans in the works
Trawlers in the Gulf of Alaska pine for changes in managemet struture that would allow them to harvest the total allwable catch for groundfish .The industry continues to reel from closures stemming from king salmon bycatch in 2015 .Halibut bycatch limits have caused theree closures already this year .
Bycatch caps for prohibited species ,such as salmon and halibut ,have been around for yeard ,but last year trawlers hit 18,000 fish cap for kings on May 3 ,leaving the fleet tied to the docks until the season re-opened with new caps on August 10.
Through the fleet kept fishing through the end of the year ,the majority of TACs for deep and shallow water flashfish ,arrowtooth flounder ,turbot and Atka mackerel went unharvested.
In 2015 ,fishermen were “not able to harvest the available TACsfor any of the species “,says Julie Boney ,executive director of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank ,in Kodiak .”Of a total 120,000metric tons of fish swimming in the water”.
The first of this year´s closures was set on March 16 , after the fleet hit the halibut bycatch cap of 85 metric tons.Each quarter of the year new caps are released and the fleet was again shut down after reaching a 256-metric ton cap on April 30 .The season for the directed fishery closed on May 20 after hitting a cap of 70 metric tons.
As of July ,trawlers were fishing for flatfish with a halibut bycatch cap of 180 metric tons for the shallow water fishery ,and a halibut cap of 256 metric tons for the deepwater fishery .The closures have caused the industry and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to forge ahead in designing a new management regime.So far , two alternatives have been hatched ,but Bonney says management agenies and the industry are dissatisfied with those options.