Central Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Catch Share Schemes Continue at Kodiak Fisheries Work Group and Fisheries Advisory Committee:

Central Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Catch Share Schemes Continue at Kodiak Fisheries Work Group and Fisheries Advisory Committee:

Kodiak, Alaska – July 2013 by Stephen Taufen, Groundswell Fisheries Movement

In Alaska, the decades long species-by-species march toward ‘giveaway’ privatization of the public commons continues to progress.  At Groundswell, we’re trying to stop that public larceny and keep fisheries open to market forces: not operating under restraints of trade, where price-fixing and job losses materialize.

The following article covered one local meeting on the efforts of the central Gulf of Alaska groundfish trawl industry to get another ‘catch share’ program in place for federal waters. The power of fish politics and corporate money —especially of foreign-owned processing subsidiaries— seeks more tradable, salable quotas.

We have added some introductory information to guide national viewers into how the public-input process regarding federal fish management attempts to arise on Kodiak Island.

Introduction to Kodiak Island:

Kodiak Island sits at the center of the Gulf of Alaska fisheries where Kodiak is the major port for commercial processing, and has the largest fleet in Alaska waters.  There is a dominant near shore catcher-processor presence here, primarily serving the central GOA, and deliveries from the west and east.  The plants crowd together along a relatively small waterfront, when compared to New Bedford.

*The Alaska Marine Highway ferry sits near the north end of the fish processing waterfront. *

St. Paul’s downtown harbor sits at the north end of the main section of ‘cannery row.’

There are several federal fisheries research facilities and a superb new regional Alaska Department of Fish and Game building. Obviously, there is a significant presence of both International Pacific Halibut Commission (Canada and USA) and other observers, and a mid-sized NOAA Office of Law Enforcement.
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Kodiak is home to the United States Coast Guard’s largest base; and the island has a space launch facility neighboring the North Pacific.

Kodiak was once ‘The King Crab Capitol of the World” and remains prominent as a unique port for many fleets, from jiggers to longliners, pot cod and crab vessels, and the industrial bottomfish and midwater trawling fleet.

The main boat yard has new docks and a 600-ton, 54-foot-high hoist built by Marine Travelift of Wisconsin, one of five in the USA and the only one in Alaska.

See: http://kodiakboatyard.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Kodiak-Boatyard-and-Travelift-PR-6.22.09.pdf for details.

Also, there are major city docks for the Alaska marine highway ferries, containership offloading, fishing, and to handle seasonal Alaska cruise ships.

The downtown harbor, St. Paul’s, is primarily devoted to sport fishing charterers, the jig fleet, and salmon gillnetters and seiners —for state managed fisheries— and local longliners who pursue halibut and black cod, and more.

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Kodiak harbor framed beneath island peaks.

Fishermen’s Hall sits at St. Paul harbor (on right).

Accordingly, the political influence surrounding ocean activities and the island municipalities bring in hundreds of millions per year.  Nearly all of that is from government project funding; yet there remains a concern for the income and jobs, and taxes that fishing brings to Kodiak.

Not surprisingly, the City of Kodiak government and the Kodiak Island borough assembly have a joint fishery working group (KFWG) consisting of three members, each, who hired a fishery consultant —former ADF&G commissioner and former North Pacific Fishery Management Council state of Alaska voting member, Denby Lloyd— to guide joint policy on federal and state fishing issues.

Twenty-plus members of the Kodiak fishery advisory committee (KFAC) also meet several times a year at the Kodiak College campus of the University of Alaska.  See: http://www.kodiakak.us/documents/44/KODIAK%20FISHERIES%20ADVISORY%20COMMITTEE_201211191310445494.pdf . Members and the public represent large and small fleets of various types, sport fishing, processing plants, and citizens at large; along with members of the NPFMC advisory panel and council, to regularly meet to address fishing concerns and hear public concerns and education in a relaxed format, with the goal of giving advice to the KFWG.

Copies of the KFWG meeting agendas and reports are found under the city clerk’s web link at http://records.city.kodiak.ak.us:8000/weblink7/Browse.aspx . The joint guidelines to the NPFMC on the island and city’s overarching concerns regarding federal Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) development are in these files.  Bottom line, despite the contentious nature of competing gear group sectors and fishing businesses, there is a fairly strong commitment toward public transparency on the community level.

The KFWG has circulated major policy and related questions for public and industry input, and also invites ‘fishery experts’ to give presentations, with the goal of educating the joint government participants, and deciding how Kodiak’s consultant and mayors, or their representatives, should approach the NPFMC at its five or more annual meetings, according to items on the federal agenda.  Individuals remain free to give the federal regional fishery management council their own public comments and address issues of significant importance to their own businesses, as well.

The NPFMC spent many recent years dealing with a Rockfish Pilot Program, and giving it a major revision into a Rockfish Program (a revised FMP) starting in the 2012 season.  State of Alaska votes carried the new program into a more competitive regime, without processor quota linkages or catcher vessel ‘catch shares’ — even though cooperatives are formed for fleets associated with each of the major processors, and an allocation of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each trawl vessel is annually ‘brought to’ the current cooperatives for management shared among that group of trawl vessels.

With the NPFMC agenda now centered on the GOA groundfish and related bycatch issues, it is working toward various alternatives and options to develop a new GOA Groundfish ‘fishery management plan’ (FMP), particularly for the trawl segment.  Obviously, with halibut and sablefish, Dungeness, tanner and king crab, cod, rockfish, along king salmon and other multispecies affected by any NPFMC action and state Board of Fisheries shared management, few places have the insurmountable and complex fishery management and conservation challenges, as Kodiak Island and the central Gulf.