The bottom trawl fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska will now have to avoid catching Chinook salmon as bycatch or risk closing their fisheries.
A rule recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council establishes a limit on the number of Chinook salmon that can be killed as bycatch each year in the Central and Western Gulf of Alaska bottom trawl fisheries that target rockfish, cod, and flatfish. The factory trawlers and bottom trawl catcher vessels in these fisheries cannot catch more than 7,500 Chinook salmon as bycatch, or will have to stop fishing for the season. The rule also requires that all Chinook salmon caught by bottom trawlers be delivered to a processing facility where an observer can count the number of salmon and collect scientific data or biological samples. Adding to the 25,000 Chinook salmon limit placed on the Gulf of Alaska pollock fishery last year, this brings the total number of Chinook salmon that can be killed by the groundfish fisheries each year in the Gulf of Alaska to 32,500 salmon.
“Chinook salmon are in trouble, and one way to ensure these salmon have a chance to return to our rivers to spawn is to avoid having them dragged up by bottom trawlers,” said Jon Warrenchuk, Senior Scientist and Campaign Manager for Oceana.
Chinook salmon abundance has been declining for over 50 years in Alaska and on the entire Pacific coast. Given the troubling status of Chinook populations and the uncertainty associated with their declines, Oceana advocated for a lower bycatch limit of 5,000 Chinook salmon for the Gulf of Alaska bottom trawl fisheries.
NMFS is obligated by law “to the extent practicable and in the following priority: (A) minimize bycatch; and (B) minimize the mortality of bycatch which cannot be avoided.” Today’s action was taken in an effort to fulfill that obligation.
“Alaska is one of the world’s last salmon strongholds,” said Susan Murray, Deputy Vice President for Oceana. “We need to keep protecting our iconic King salmon from being wasted by trawlers.”
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 550,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visitwww.oceana.org.