Tag Archives: North Pacific Fishery Management Council

NOAA Fisheries releases more information about ‘high level’ of killer whales caught this year by Alaska trawl fleet

Six killer whales caught in trawl net gear this year in waters off Alaska died as a result of their entanglement, while a seventh whale was seriously injured by this gear, according to a NOAA Fisheries statement released Friday. The trawl fishing industry’s 2023 take of killer whales, first made by public NOAA Fisheries in September, is significantly higher than in recent years past, according to a review of NOAA Fisheries death tolls through 2021. Bering Sea killer whales are not listed under the Endangered Species Act but are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. John Gauvin, fisheries science director for the Alaska Seafood Cooperative, “We want to conduct our fisheries without harming orcas and we’re taking steps to avoid future mortalities,” more, >>click to read<< 10:19

Opinion: The tragic mismanagement of bycatch in Alaska

The commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s recent opinion piece on bycatch would make for good comedy if the topic wasn’t so serious. Doug Vincent-Lang extolled the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s handling of bycatch in trawl fisheries off the coast of Alaska. As examples, he mentioned existing bycatch caps for chinook salmon and halibut bycatch measures that are not yet in effect. Other than that, here are the council “actions” he espouses. The council, of which he is a key member, has “initiated an analysis” concerning caps on chum bycatch, is “considering further fishing restrictions” related to crab in the Bering Sea and is “evaluating whether further protections are needed” for Tanner crab in the Gulf. He also notes that the council “support(s) further research” into the causes of the declines in these seminal Alaska fisheries stocks. >>click to read<< 12:29

OPINION: North Pacific Fishery Management Council is acting to reduce bycatch

In a recent opinion piece, Brooke Woods, Linda Behnken and Nanci Morris Lyon stated, “Federal fisheries off Alaska are managed via the dictates of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC), which has done little to address the trawl fleet’s enormous bycatch of species immeasurably important to Alaskans.” Nothing could be further from the truth The council adopted hard caps for chinook salmon in the Bering Sea trawl pollock fisheries that vary depending upon the expected returns to western Alaska rivers. When expected returns are low, the caps are adjusted downward. Additionally, the fishing industry has stepped forward to implement chinook salmon avoidance measures that hold each vessel accountable for limiting bycatch to below the caps. In fact, the fleet is well below their caps, recognizing the need to rebuild these stocks. >>click to read<< 15:55

Doug Vincent-Lang

With little movement on salmon bycatch, Alaska advocates look to Biden administration for executive action

Amid catastrophic shortfalls in salmon harvests in some of Alaska’s rural, Indigenous communities, advocates have pleaded for a crackdown on unintentional catch of those same salmon by the trawl vessels that harvest billions of pounds of whitefish in the Bering Sea. But the politically appointed regional council that manages Bering Sea fisheries has largely resisted those requests. So instead, advocates are now taking another approach. They’re pushing the Biden administration for a workaround: a rewrite of the federal guidelines that tell the regional council, and its counterparts across the country, how to manage all the fisheries under their supervision. >>click to read<< 18:40

Alaska fishermen will be allowed to harvest lucrative red king crab in the Bering Sea

Alaska fishermen will be able to harvest red king crab for the first time in two years, offering a slight reprieve to the beleaguered fishery beset by low numbers likely exacerbated by climate change. There was no such rebound for snow crab, however, and that fishery will remain closed for a second straight year, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced Friday. “The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery for the prior two seasons were closed based on low abundance and particularly low abundance of mature-sized female crabs,” said Mark Stichert, the state department’s ground fish and shellfish management coordinator, “Based on survey results from this year, those numbers have improved, some signs of modest optimism in terms of improving abundance in Bristol Bay red king crab overall and that has allowed for a small but still conservative fishery for 2023 as the total population size is still quite low,” he said. >>click to read<<11:52

Alaska cancels snow crab harvest again due to population concerns

Crabbers from the Pacific Northwest who fish in Alaska had been watching and waiting for recommendations from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which met Thursday and Friday. Following the meetings, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said Bering snow crab season will be closed for 2023-2024; Bristol Bay red king crab will open. Tanner crab will also be open for commercial fishermen. Both the snow crab and Bristol Bay red king crab seasons were closed in 2023. Crabbers and industry associations warned of the massive impact the decision would have on many small businesses, prompting calls by Congressional officials for an emergency declaration and federal aid. Video, >>click to read<< 08:18

Bristol Bay red king crab fishery could return after two years on ice

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is set to decide Friday whether or not to reopen the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery, which has been closed since 2021. Their decision will be based on recommendations from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which is meeting through Oct. 11 in Anchorage. During the Council’s meeting Tuesday, the Crab Plan Team presented data and analysis on Bristol Bay crab stocks from the summer trawl survey to the Scientific and Statistical Committee. Mike Litzow is a co-chair for the team and the shellfish assessment program manager and director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Kodiak Lab. Litzow said while male and female crab are still at historic lows, the fishery is not at or approaching an “overfished” status. >>click to read<< 08:48

New quota system to start for trawl harvests of cod in Bering Sea and Aleutians

Commercial fishermen netting Pacific cod from the Bering Sea and Aleutians region will be working under new individual limits starting next year designed to ease pressure on harvests that regulators concluded were too rushed, too dangerous and too prone to accidentally catch untargeted fish species. The new system will require fishers who harvest cod by trawl – the net gear that scoops up fish swimming near the bottom of the ocean – to be part of designated cooperatives that will then have assigned quota shares. The fisheries service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it has notified eligible participants and is asking for applications. >click to read< 08:54

Council to reconsider red king crab closure options

Regulators are inching closer to closing areas of Bristol Bay to commercial groundfish fishing in an attempt to help conserve the depleted red king crab there. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has requested more information for a second evaluation of options for what to do about the Bristol Bay Red King Crab fishery. At its meeting from June 6-11 in Sitka, the council tweaked some of the options for closures and asked its staff to gather more information for another review at its next meeting. The current options issue annual closures for part of Bristol Bay to all commercial groundfish gear types, though one option excludes non-pelagic trawl. >click to read< 09:40

These are Alaska’s priorities for fishery management council

Based on discussions with a diverse range of user groups, delegations from our coastal communities, fishermen, processor representatives and other Alaskans, it is clear our fisheries are facing a number of challenges.  These challenges include unprecedented declines in Bering Sea crab stocks and ongoing low harvestable levels of Pacific cod and other economically valuable stocks that are causing economic hardship for fishery participants and affected communities.  We also heard ongoing concerns about the impacts of federal fisheries on key species like halibut, salmon, and crab.  This input was valuable to better understand the issues and to identify priorities and potential solutions. >click to read< 16:01

Fisheries protester removed from Alaska Capitol in handcuffs, arrested after fight

A man urging Alaska lawmakers to take action against trawling was removed from the state Capitol in handcuffs and banned from the building after disrupting a committee hearing on Monday.  After his removal, former fisheries worker Eric Osuch went to the nearby State Office Building and was arrested by the Juneau Police Department after a fight was reported there. He was charged with criminal trespass, the department said. Osuch has been a regular figure outside the Capitol since last week, advocating action against deep-sea trawling in order to preserve salmon returns. That topic was addressed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council last week, with limited immediate action taken. Osuch said he was dissatisfied by that result and called for the abolition of the council. On Monday, he was in front of the Capitol as early as 8:45 a.m., yelling at passersby. >click to read< 09:52

Alaska tribal groups sue federal fisheries managers, seeking action on salmon crisis

Two of Alaska’s largest tribal groups have sued the federal government, alleging federal regulators are mismanaging Alaska’s billion-dollar pollock and cod fishery amid an ongoing salmon crisis in central and southwestern Alaska. The Association of Village Council Presidents, which includes 56 tribes in the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta, and the Tanana Chiefs Conference, which includes 42 tribes in Interior Alaska, filed suit Friday in U.S. District Court against the National Marine Fisheries Service and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.  The two tribal groups are asking a federal judge to require the agency to update the assessments used to set catch limits for federally managed groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. >click to read<  14:57

Alaska commercial fishing fatalities decline, reflecting national trend

Commercial fishing in Alaska, long notorious as a dangerous and potentially deadly occupation, is getting safer, according to data presented this week to federal regulators. Alaska fishing-related fatalities declined at a rate of 57% from 2013 to 2022, according to the presentation made on Thursday to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which is meeting in Anchorage. Alaska, with 88 fishing fatalities from 2013 to 2022, accounted for slightly over a third of the nation’s fishing-related deaths during the period, according to the presentation, made by Samantha Case and Richie Evoy, epidemiologists with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. >click to read< 14:10

In Depth: Alaska’s Fisheries Are Collapsing. This Congresswoman Is Taking on the Industry She Says Is to Blame.

The late 1990s and early 2000s were boomtimes for halibut fishermen in Alaska. Over 80 million pounds of the flatfish were being harvested annually. Deckhands could earn $250,000 a season. The small boat harbor in the southcentral city of Homer, known as the “halibut capital of the world,” was bustling. Erik Velsko, 39, was one of those fishermen. He started buying annual shares in 2001 when the halibut population was at near historic highs. But within a few years, the stock plummeted by more than half and the quotas for commercial fishermen were slashed accordingly. Halibut wasn’t the only so-called directed fishery to experience such a catastrophic drop. The crab fleet — made famous in the reality show “Deadliest Catch” — has been mostly stuck in port for two years after the near total collapse of the snow crab population and the decades long decline of red king crab. Photos, >click to read< 11:42

NOAA, ADFG, Bering Sea Crabbers Teaming Up On Red Crab Fishery Research

Tempestuous weather and icy seas make winter research on Bristol Bay red king crab challenging. This winter, crab fishermen are working together with scientists to make it possible. The Bering Sea crab industry is partnering with NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to meet a critical need for winter data on Bristol Bay Red king crab. Scientists and fishermen will work together on the month-long field research, set to launch in March. The research responds directly to data requests from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to inform their management decisions. Photos, >click to read< 10:12

Commission cuts halibut limits across Alaska, Canada

The International Pacific Halibut Commission adopted its annual catch limits for halibut in 2023 from California to the Bering Sea at its meeting Jan. 27. Coastwide, the total constant exploitation yield, a term for how many total halibut longer than 26 inches are removed from the population, regardless of reason, is just shy of 37 million pounds, a 10% drop from 41.2 million pounds last year. Every regulatory area received a cut except for 2A, which covers California, Oregon and Washington. Area 3A, which covers the central Gulf of Alaska, and area 4A, which covers the eastern Aleutians, saw the largest cuts at 17% each. Southeast Alaska only saw a 1% cut, while the western Gulf, western Aleutians and central Bering Sea each saw 6% cuts. The Canadian coast saw a 10.3% cut. >click to read< 11:50

New halibut catch share plan included in federal bill

Charter operators in the Gulf of Alaska will soon be able to buy halibut quota from willing commercial fishermen. That’s after funding was included for a new catch-sharing program in the federal omnibus budget bill, passed at the end of last month. Seward’s Andy Mezirow is on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and has been a champion of the program for a while. He said it’s a long time coming. The program was vetoed by President Donald Trump in his final weeks in office and had to go through the Congressional approval process — twice. >click to read< 14:37

Council has 4 months to fix Cook Inlet salmon fishery management plan

The future of the Cook Inlet salmon fishery is again in the air as the North Pacific Fishery Management Council debates how to manage it after a federal court ruled that it has to write a new plan. It’s been six years since a federal court ruled that the council’s decision to remove Cook Inlet from a federal management plan and defer entirely to the state was illegal. The council initially decided to remove Cook Inlet in 2012, a decision that the United Cook Inlet Drift Association challenged in court. In 2016, the court agreed with the association, ordering the council to create a new federal management plan that includes the federal waters of Cook Inlet. >click to read< 09:47

Alaska crab fishery collapse seen as warning about Bering Sea transformation

Less than five years ago, prospects appeared bright for Bering Sea crab fishers. Stocks were abundant and healthy, federal biologists said, and prices were near all-time highs. Now two dominant crab harvests have been canceled for lack of fish. For the first time, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in October canceled the 2022-2023 harvest of Bering Sea snow crab, and it also announced the second consecutive year of closure for another important harvest, that of Bristol Bay red king crab. What has happened between then and now? A sustained marine heat wave that prevented ice formation in the Bering Sea for two winters, thus vastly altering ocean conditions and fish health. “We lost billions of snow crab in a matter of months,”,,, >click to read< 18:54

Alaska task force’s final report calls for new rules and more research to address seafood bycatch

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who created the task force a year ago, released the group’s final report late Thursday. “I look forward to working with task force members and stakeholders to do everything we can to get more fish to return to Alaska’s waters,” Dunleavy said in a statement. The collapse of salmon runs vital to western Alaska — and public complaints that too many salmon were being intercepted at sea before returning to spawning grounds — triggered the creation of the Alaska Bycatch Task Force. However, its work extended to bycatch of various crab species and halibut. To some degree, bycatch is unavoidable, the task force said. >click to read< 09:10

Bering Sea crab collapse spurs push for stronger conservation measures

For Bering Sea crabber Gretar Gudmundsson, December is a month for preparing his two boats for the winter harvest season. But not this year. For the first time, the winter snow crab season has been scuttled. The move has upended seasonal rhythms, and the financial stability of a crab fleet already slammed by a two-year shutdown of the fall harvest of red king crab. “We didn’t ship up any groceries. We didn’t recruit any crew. We’re not laying on fuel. Nothing is happening,” Gudmundsson said. Crabbers are pressing for more restrictions on pollock fleets, which deploy large cone-shaped trawl nets to scoop up more than 3.2 billion pounds annually of this fish in the biggest single-species harvest in North America. >click to read< 11:55

Did climate change really kill billions of snow crabs in Alaska?

In October 2022, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the lucrative snow crab fishery in the Bering Sea would close for the first time, following a population decline of 80% between 2018 and 2022. While fisheries managers and biologists say climate change is to blame for the species’ retreat, some fishers and crab experts suggest that trawling bycatch and other fishing activity may have played a role in the snow crab’s decline. The fishery’s closure has amplified a chorus of concerns about Alaska’s trawling industry and the knowledge gaps around its potential impact on fisheries. The disappearance of billions snow crabs from the Bering Sea has captivated the world’s attention since Alaska shut down the fishery for the first time in October 2022. But where exactly did these snow crabs go? And what caused them to vanish so quickly? >click to read< 08:02

Massive losses predicted from Bering Sea crab closures

While other crab stocks have been declining in the North Pacific for years, the snow crab fishery’s collapse is doubly shocking for the industry. Not only is it one of the larger crab fisheries by volume in Alaska, it has also gone from booming and healthy to overfished and collapsing within five years, with little warning or clear explanation. Fishermen who made investments in permits and boats less than five years ago are now looking at bankruptcy. Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, the trade organization representing the industry, has estimated the direct financial losses at about $500 million. Adding in the ripple effects to the economy, that estimate rises to about $1 billion. >click to read< 07:50

Bycatch task force considers new rules, more research to protect Alaska fish intercepted at sea

In the search for a solution to the problem of bycatch, the unintended at-sea harvest of non-target species, the stakes in Alaska are high. Now a special task force is nearing the end of a year-long process to find solutions that satisfy competing interests to the problem of bycatch, which refers to fish that are caught incidentally by commercial fishers who are targeting other fish. The Alaska Bycatch Review Task Force, created by Gov. Mike Dunleavy last November, is due to release its final report by the end of next month. At least two additional meetings are to be held between now and then. >click to read< 11:50

Conservation concerns cancel Alaska’s Bering snow, king crab seasons

Alaska officials have canceled the fall Bristol Bay red king crab harvest, and in a first-ever move, also scuttled the winter harvest of smaller snow crab. The move is a double whammy to a fleet from Alaska, Washington and Oregon pursuing Bering Sea crab in harvests that as recently as 2016 grossed $280 million. “I am struggling for words. This is so unbelievable that this is happening,” said Jamie Goen, executive director of the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers. “We have third-generation fishermen who are going to go out of business.” >click to read< 14:47

Feds working on new plan for contentious Cook Inlet fishery

Federal fisheries managers say they’ve started working on a new management plan for the Cook Inlet salmon fishery, months after a court said their plan to completely close the fishery was unjust. At a meeting in Anchorage Thursday, Jon Furland with NOAA Fisheries told the North Pacific Fishery Management Council that time is of the essence to create a new plan and comply with the court. In 2020, following a lawsuit from the United Cook Inlet Drift Association over management of the drift fishery, the council voted to close a large swath of Cook Inlet to commercial salmon fishing. The closure applied to Cook Inlet’s federal waters,,, >click to read< 16:48

In victory for commercial fishermen, court orders Cook Inlet fishery to reopen

Cook Inlet drift fishermen can fish the federal waters of the inlet this summer after all. That’s after a district court judge shot down a federal rule that would have closed a large part of the inlet to commercial salmon fishing. Fishermen said it would have been a death knell for the fishery, which has 500 drift permit-holders. One of those permit-holders is Erik Huebsch, of Kasilof. He’s vice president of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, which filed the suit. And he said he’s pleased. “Opening the EEZ is vital to the fleet,” Huebsch said. “Without opening the EEZ, the drift fishery is really not viable. That’s where we go to catch fish.” >click to read< 12:19

Scientists point to climate as likely cause for snow crab decline

Even as scientists are still trying to figure out why the Bering Sea snow crab stock crashed in 2021, federal managers are working on a plan to help rebuild it. Data from last year’s survey at this point seems to confirm that there was a massive decline in the number of young snow crab in the Eastern Bering Sea—something like 99% fewer female snow crab showed up in the survey from 2021. Jaime Goen, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, told the council that the crab industry is reeling from the revenue loss both in the snow crab fishery and the complete closure of the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery this year. What hurt was the suddenness — a few years ago, the crab stocks were looking hopeful and like a good investment, and many businesspeople and crew members bought in with the hopes those investments would pay off, she said. “Now those same people are facing bankruptcy,” >click to read< 22:00

NPFMC wants more information on decline in king crab stocks

Two decades into the decline of Bristol Bay red king crab, with stocks now too low for a commercial fishery, the fight continues at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council over what protections to take for the crab in danger and how soon to do it. Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers had hoped that federal fisheries managers might put restrictions on groundfish fishing in the Red King Crab Savings Area, as well as other measures, during the NPFMC’s April meeting in Anchorage. Instead, the council voted to have staff prepare an expanded discussion paper for its October meeting that includes analysis of the impacts on annual or seasonal closures to pelagic trawl, groundfish, pot and longline gear in the BBRKA, including impacts on target catch, fishing timing relative to crab mating and molting, crab avoidance and other prohibited species catch and non-target species. >click to read< 11:27

NPFMC ponders changes in the halibut catch sharing plan

When the North Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted its halibut Catch Share Plan back 2014, charter operators were granted 125% of their historic catch at low levels of abundance, with that additional 25% coming out of quota for the commercial longline sector. Commercial longliners were assured that no further uncompensated reallocations would be considered, but now federal fisheries managers are doing just that. The Halibut Coalition is urging its membership of commercial harvesters to write to the governors of Alaska, Washington and Oregon expressing their views, as the representatives of those states on the NPFMC voted in favor of considering changes to halibut allocations. >click to read< 13:41