Groups ask for reduced king bycatch in the Bering Sea

  • By Molly Dischner
  • Saturday, September 20, 2014 9:38pm
  • News

The Association of Village Council Presidents and the Tanana Chiefs Conference are petitioning for emergency changes to bycatch regulations in the Bering Sea.

The current Bering Sea chinook bycatch cap has two parts: a lower number that is the performance standard of 47,591 and a higher number, the hard cap of 60,000. By joining incentive plan agreements, or IPAs, pollock vessels receive a prorated share of the cap of 60,000. Any vessel that does not join an IPA receives a prorated share of the lower cap. Sectors that exceed the performance standard twice in seven years no longer have access to the higher limit, and must keep their catch under the lower number.

The organizations have asked that the hard cap be reduced to 20,000 kings, and the performance standard be reduced to 15,000.

The Association of Village Council Presidents, or AVCP, and Tanana Chiefs Conference, or TCC, asked for the changes in a Sept. 16 letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The North Pacific council instituted the current caps under Amendment 91.

According to the letter, a 20,000 cap would be less than the five-year average king take by the pollock fleet. In 2013, Bering Sea pollock fishermen caught 13,036 kings.

The request for action comes as the pollock fleet finishes its season. The fleet has caught the majority of its pollock quota for the season, and National Marine Fisheries Service spokeswoman Julie Speegle said in a Sept. 17 email that the fishery was likely to finish within a week or so.

In that email, Speegle wrote that the projected king bycatch for the fleet this year was just under 15,000; as of Sept. 17, Speegle said the catch was about 14,375.

The majority of the king catch occurred in the A season, with about 2,198 kings caught in the Bering Sea since June 10, including 611 in the first week of September.

Last year, the king bycatch rate increased in the fall as the fleet tried to catch the remainder of its pollock quota.

“Dramatically low chinook runs and harvests in recent years have caused severe impacts to the people in our villages and the chinook stocks upon which they depend. Emergency action is necessary to avoid substantial harm to the chinook salmon stocks, Western Alaska salmon fisheries and AVCP and TCC communities,” the groups wrote in their letter.

According to the letter, the Department of Commerce guidelines for emergency action under the Magnuson-Stevens Act require that the action result from unforeseen events or recently discovered circumstances that present serious conservation or management problems in the fishery, and that the value of the emergency regulations outweigh the loss of the typical deliberative process.

The emergency regulation process has been used a handful of times in the past decade. According to Speegle, the emergency regulation process was used in 2011 to remove a crab delivery requirement in the Aleutians because the Adak plant closed and in 2010 to remove unenforceable regulations.

In the letter, the groups wrote that the low returns in recent years were not anticipated when the current caps were instituted.

The letter also requests that the Secretary of Commerce and North Pacific council engage in government-to-government consultations regarding the caps.

At its June meeting in Nome, the council voted to ask for analysis of a lower performance standard, but analysis does not guarantee final action, and any action will not come for at least several months, with lower caps likely not in affect for more than a year. The options out for analysis do not call for as low of a cap as AVCP and TCC requested in their emergency petition.

More in News

Gary Porter, owner of Bald Mountain Air Service, stands in front of his Twin Otter airplane Friday, Oct. 22. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
City Council passes aircraft flat tax rate

The Homer City Council held a public hearing for Ordinance 21-62 concerning a flat tax on aircrafts.

Amelie Bignell, of Soldotna, drops a treat in the bucket of Hayden Jones, of Soldotna, on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, at a “trunk-or-treat” event at Orca Theatre on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Alaska. Jones was dressed as Vampirina. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
All Halloween all weekend

A sinister performance, pumpkin carving contest, food drive, pet microchip event and multiple trick-or-treats are on the docket.

Bill Elam (center) nominates Brent Hibbert to be president of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Johnson elected assembly president; Hibbert to be vice president

Prior to Tuesday, Johnson, who represents Kasilof, served as the assembly’s vice president.

Homer Senior Citizen Center residents participated in a worldwide Televeda bingo event to set a Guinness world record on Friday, Oct. 22. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Homer senior citizens help break world record

The game was held to fight against social isolation in senior communities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)
State hospitalizations still on the rise

Despite a decrease in cases, the state is still seeing hospitalization surge.

The Seward welcome sign is photographed in July 2021. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward vice mayor and council member resigns

The council accept the resignation of Tony Baclaan during its Monday night meeting.

Ben Mohr watches Kenai River Junior Classic participants head out to fish on the Kenai River in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Mohr resigns as director of KRSA

He has been the executive director of KRSA for nearly three years.

Heather and Hunter Phillips walk through the Kenai Community Library Haunted Hunt with their mom Kumi Phillips on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Scary reads

Spooky literary characters come to life at Kenai library haunted house.

Most Read