Starting Saturday, pollock trawlers in the Gulf of Alaska will have to avoid catching Chinook salmon as bycatch or risk being told to stop fishing.
A rule recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and implemented by the National Marine Fisheries Service establishes a limit on the number of Chinook salmon that can be caught each year in the Central and Western Gulf of Alaska pollock fisheries. If the fishery catches 25,000 Chinook, it will have to shut down. The rule also requires that all Chinook salmon caught by the pollock trawlers be delivered to a processing facility where an observer can count the number of salmon and collect scientific data or biological samples. Since the rule is being implemented well into the fishing season, the limit for the rest of this year will be 14,527 Chinook.
“Chinook salmon are one of the most important fish in Alaska, and we should do all we can to ensure these salmon are returning to our rivers to spawn rather than being dragged up in huge pollock nets and wasted,” said Jon Warrenchuk, Ocean Scientist for Oceana.
Chinook harvests and Chinook abundance have been on a declining trend 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 more protective rule than the 25,000 limit imposed on the pollock trawl fishery.
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 America’s last salmon stronghold,” said Susan Murray, Pacific Senior Director for Oceana. “NMFS’s action today is another small step toward 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 visit www.oceana.org.