Harvesting groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea for over 40 years
The North Pacific Management Council is currently working towards a Rationalization Program for the Gulf of Alaska Trawl Fisheries. The word "Rationalization" has become a hot button word for some in our region, however, no two rationalization programs are alike. While many who oppose rationalization point to the failed or undesirable programs, we feel those programs are worst case scenario and can be taken as a lesson of "what not to do". There are existing programs that are very successful, like the AFA fishery in the Bering Sea, the West Coast Whiting fishery, and closer to home, our very own Rockfish Program. Our Association believes that we can pull the positives from the current programs, avoid the negative aspects, and come up with a comprehensive catch share program that is beneficial for all involved; from our hard working fisherman and processing workers to the community as a whole.
One of the major reasons for considering a Rationalization Program is the lowering of bycatch rates.
Some have suggested the implementation of Individual Bycatch Quotas (IBQs), which would give each vessel a set amount of allowable bycatch without a target species, instead of a Comprehensive Catch Share Program, which would give individual shares of target species as well as a set amount of allowable bycatch (either individually, or for the entire group). While an IBQ Program may sound good in theory, it is simplistic and points to a lack of knowledge of how our fishery works.
IBQ Program vs Comprehensive Catch Share Program
1.It is assumed that vessels would only be allocated PSC species such as Halibut and Chinook salmon. It is unclear what other species would be allocated under an “IBQ” program. Many species of groundfish, such as Pacific Cod, Pollock, Skates, etc., can be considered bycatch depending on the timing and level of harvest. *see "PSC vs Bycatch"
2.Since a vessel is limited by the amount of PSC species available and not the target species, the race-for-fish continues as vessels strive to maximize their target catch. Vessels make money based on the amount of target species they harvest, not the amount of PSC they avoid.
3.Since the race would continue, there would be no opportunity for vessels to move around looking for an area of high target catch with low PSC catch. By the time a vessel finds a better area to fish, the Quota or PSC limit is caught and the fishery is closed. 4.It is likely that a number of seasons would close when the PSC limit is reached rather than the Quota being fully harvested with the result being no reduction in the use of PSC. 5.Target species will be forgone if/when seasons close on reaching the PSC limit rather than the Quota, leading to less money going to the community 6.An IBQ program without target species allocations does not address the regulatory discard of primary species in other fisheries.
Comprehensive Catch Share Program
1.Vessels would be allocated target and other species including PSC. 2.Since each vessel would receive a specific allocation of each species, the race-for-fish would end. 3.The pace of the fisheries would slow down and vessels would have the opportunity to move around looking for areas of high target catch with low PSC catch. 4.When a vessel has the opportunity to find areas of high target catch the result is that nets are in the water for a shorter period of time. This reduces the potential for any negative impact the fishing equipment may have on the environment. 5.With the ability to minimize PSC catch, it is likely that quotas of target species will be more fully harvested. Revenues from these increased harvests will benefit harvester, processors, processor workers, vendors and communities that depend on groundfish harvest revenues. 6.With no race-for-fish, harvesters and processors can work together to harvest and process groundfish resources more efficiently. Product flow into processing plants can be regulated to maximize recoveries and develop new product styles. 7.With no race-for-fish, processors have the opportunity to do value added processing. 8.With no race-for-fish, vessels will not be forced to fish in tough weather conditions so there will be a huge safety benefit to vessels and the crewmembers that work on them. 9.With a stable groundfish fishery prosecuted over longer periods of time, there will be increased opportunities for fishing vessel crews, processing workers, and support industries. 10.With appropriate use, ownership, co-operative and processing caps, excess consolidation can be avoided within either the harvesting or processing sectors. 11.A catch share program will result in growing the overall value of groundfish fisheries for the benefit for all those involved. While a portion of these increased revenues would be used to support the fishing industry, it is likely that much would be spent on community infrastructures such as schools, roads, police and fire protection, etc.
What is the difference between “PSC “(Prohibited Species Catch) and “Bycatch”?
PSC (Prohibited species Catch) Prohibited species in the Gulf of Alaska include Halibut, Chinook salmon and crab. The intentional harvest and retention of these species by trawl gear is prohibited and illegal at all times. There are caps on both Halibut and Chinook salmon and when these caps are reached no more trawling may occur. The incidental harvest of PSC is closely monitored and tabulated to make sure that the PSC caps are not exceeded.
Bycatch Bycatch is the harvest of any fish, other than the target species, which is discarded.
There are two situations when the discard of bycaught fish occurs.
•Regulatory discard – When targeting a specific species there is a limit on how much incidental take of other species is allowed. All incidental take of other species above that limit must be discarded. •Economic discard –If incidentally caught fish has no commercial value and is not regulated it may be discarded.
Bycatch example: During the Quota fishery (Directed fishery) for Pacific Cod, Cod can be targeted with trawl gear and a full load delivered. Once the directed quota is caught, only a portion of future deliveries of fish can be Pacific Cod (usually 20%). Any catch of Pacific Cod over this percentage must be discarded – this is regulatory discard of Pacific Cod bycatch. Once the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for Pacific Cod has been reached it is illegal to retain any Pacific cod as they are then considered Prohibited species. Depending on the timing and harvest of Pacific Cod, they are considered a target species, an incidental species, bycatch or PSC.
Pacific Cod can be:
1.Target species – when fishing season is open 2.Incidental Species – When target season is closed only a percentage of future delivers can be Pacific Cod. 3.Bycatch Species – When target season is closed all harvest exceeding incidental percentage must be discarded. 4.PSC species – When Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is reached, Pacific Cod become PSC and any retention is illegal.
(Note: This above scenario is true for many of our major groundfish species)