Friday, June 8, 2012

Dragger Halibut Bycatch Reduced By 15%!

AMCC Press Release:  Fishery Managers Lower Halibut Bycatch Limit in Gulf of Alaska

Kodiak, AK- Federal fishery managers took important action today to protect the health of the halibut population in the Gulf of Alaska. Members of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (the Council) voted to reduce bycatch of halibut in the Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries by 15%. The bycatch cap of the hook and line fleet was also reduced.

“This action will help protect the health of the halibut population and the jobs of thousands of commercial and charter halibut fishermen in our coastal communities who rely on halibut,“ said Theresa Peterson, fisherman and Kodiak Outreach Coordinator for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

Halibut are caught incidentally by the millions in groundfish fisheries, especially trawl fisheries, that are pursuing species such as arrowtooth flounder, yellowfin sole and Pacific cod. The halibut caught are often dead and are required by law to be discarded back into the ocean. The trim in bycatch is taken off the top of the currently allowable cap of about 5 million pounds and will be effective in 2014.

“On behalf of our organization and the over 1500 sport, commercial, subsistence harvesters and other halibut users across Alaska who called for reducing waste, we thank the Council for taking meaningful action to protect our halibut resource “ said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

Science by the International Pacific Halibut Commission has shown that reducing bycatch is important to the short and long-term health of the halibut population.  The Council’s action to curtail bycatch will contribute to rebuilding halibut population in the Gulf of Alaska.  

“We applaud the Council for taking this important first step and we look forward to the future action by fishery managers to further limit bycatch for the long-term health of the halibut resource,” said Peterson. 
From Andrew Jensen, of the Alaska Journal of Commerce:

In speaking in support of his motion to address the trawl industry arguments that this debate over bycatch is about allocation and not conservation, Hull pointed to the analysis that stated a bycatch limit is not an allocation.

"Instead," the document stated regarding bycatch limits, "it reflects the maximum removal amount of the designated species that society is prepared to tolerate, before it takes punitive action to curtail further (prohibited species catch) losses. Because PSC must be avoided, to the extent practicable, it cannot be regarded as an asset of fixed quantity, but instead as an upper-bound threshold, the farther below which the total PSC mortality level, the better, all else equal."

Based on the massive volume of public comment and written submissions seeking a bycatch cut, Hull noted, society's willingness to tolerate halibut bycatch in an environment of declining abundance of catchable fish has clearly reached its limit.
From Margaret Bauman of The Cordova Times:

Jonathan Warrenchuk, an ocean scientist with Oceana, a conservation group dedicated to protection of the world’s oceans, said the phased in approach was a bit of a surprise. “It is pretty clear, this is just a Band Aid,” he said. “The halibut resource looks like it is in trouble and managers are making big cuts, but the cuts were needed now. They weren’t even considering a large number to begin with. This is too much of a compromise.”

Still, Warrenchuk calculated that when fully in place in 2016, the action would result in a reduction of over 300 metric tons of halibut annually.

Democracy is not entirely dead at the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.  Thank you to everybody who helped.  Many people came to Kodiak at their own considerable expense to testify, and it made a difference.  This should be seen as a good start.  We still need to build momentum to roll back dragger destruction of our Gulf.  Halibut are hardly the only species under duress by careless and wasteful fishing practices.

Keep yer flippers wet.


Anonymous said...

15% is a joke. The extrapolations don't come close to being accurate. Halibut biomass will continue to decline due to underreporting. As it declines they will catch fewer and the bycatch cuts won't matter. A day late and a dollar short. Laughable at best. What happened to the wiglaf who knew the implications of underreporting?

Wiglaf said...

At a female reproductive rate of up to five for one loss, 15% means a lot. But then again, where the hell were you during public testimony? Bitching from the bushes and sniping from the sidelines is not the same as participating. Belly up to the bar or shut up. This sealion has few illusions, but we are bucking a billion dollar industry, here, and I won't begrudge us celebrating a win once in a while. Small wins against big players are always worth a toast. Skoal.

Now back to work.

Anonymous said...

I think the web has raised more awareness in the public and makes it a lot harder to get away with sleazy stuff and spin the facts.

I hope the new observer program works or this is meaningless. 

Duncan does a hell of a job and this seems to be an issue we agree with P-burg on.

staufen said...

Well, it appears that Jonathan Warranchuk may be one of the few willing and able to resist being assimilated into the Borg of "share the pain" propaganda and of praising the sealords for 15%, as if it really was a significant number. Ever talk to Jon? He is so sane that psychiatrists must tremble next to his calm, self-assured, smiling "of course" view on the games that were afoot.

Trawlers had won before this meeting by getting the right side of the road (50 - 60%) moved off the blacktop, and 15% installed as the rightmost edge. During the week all the trawlers could say was let us drive the 0% car in the other lane and kill all the oncoming traffic. Others begged to just let them travel the middle of the road, you know, where partial headon collisions occur.

In fact, both AP Chair Enlow and Council member Duncan Fields got their minds stuck on the 7.5% deal that was cut behind the scenes before coming to the meeting. But public testimony and letters, especially from communities and clients of charter fishermen and a few legislators were able to move the car back into the right lane, where the edge is 15%.

It will just take the trawlers about 6 years or so to get fully in that lane. And meanwhile, we're supposed to forget that the lane edge would have and should have been over 50% cutbacks, starting immediately.

Now, did they really build an adequate public record justifying why subsistence, charter and commercial fisheries should have to wait for the killing machine trawlers for 6 years before adjusting? I don't think so. The administrative excuses, "it takes time" baffling, and pure BS took rule over the real power the NPFMC could have used.

We're not impressed. Only Warrenchuk - so far - gives quotes truly worthy of the situation. Thanks Jon.

Groundswell Fisheries Movement
Stephen Taufen

Anonymous said...

Why do the trawl apologists, when confronted with facts about the Canadiens going from 2 million lbs of halibut bycatch down to 300,000 lbs in one year while catching all their trawl TAC's, always say, in a dismissive manner, 'Well, our groundfish fishery is much larger that theirs."

What does this mean? How does the size of our fishery keep us from achieving a similar % reduction???

Do they give no thought to what they are saying? Is this just a mantra to repel thought?

If you compare the makeup of the Canadian vs the US trawl GOA species comp they are fairly similar.

Hake replaces pollock as the dominant catch, we have more cod but more of it is caught with pots, longlines and jig.

They have less arrowtooth as a % but theirs gets caught while much of ours is foregone.

So what is the point of "Ours is bigger"???

Togiak River Salmon Fishing said...

Love, love your blog! More power to you!