Shake up at NPFMC: WA governor tosses trawl rep; opts for eco-candidates

Growing AK voices against trawl impacts being heard in WA, where the Bering Sea fleet is homeported.

by | March 25, 2024

Current WA trawl rep Vanderhoeven ranked as last choice by Governor Inslee

Governor Jay Inslee of Washington has apparently heard the growing grumbling by Alaskans demanding changes in the makeup of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The NPFMC oversees management of all fisheries from three to 200 miles offshore, which produce over 60% of the total Alaska volume.

Many fishery stakeholders from Alaska and beyond believe that the NPFMC “family” has become top-heavy with large trawl interests who are vested directly or indirectly in the nation’s biggest food fishery: Alaska pollock.

“From our perspective, it seems like what’s occurred over the last few years is you have a pollock fishery and everything has to work around their catch–-everything,” says Tim Bristol, director of SalmonState. “The Bering Sea is an ecosystem, not a pollock factory, and it’s past time it be managed that way.”

The Council is composed of 15 members; 11 voting and 4 non-voting who are seated for three years. The Governor of Alaska nominates candidates for five seats, the Governor of Washington two seats. There are four mandatory voting members – the leading fisheries officials from AK/WA/OR and the Alaska Regional Director for NOAA Fisheries.

The current Washington NPFMC seat that’s up for grabs in August is held by Anne Vanderhoeven, Director of Government Affairs for Arctic Storm Management Group and an “active member” of trawl organizations such as At-Sea Processors Association, United Catcher Boats, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative and High Seas Catcher Cooperative.

Anne Vanderhoeven is one of two voting NPFMC members from Washington

Last week, Governor Inslee thanked Vanderhoeven for her “service and leadership over the past three years” and announced that his top pick for a NPFMC seat is Becca Robins-Gisclair, Director of Arctic Programs for Ocean Conservancy “where she worked with Alaska tribes and grassroots organizations to protect a region that is on the frontlines of global climate change.”

Governor Inslee also nominated Jamie Goen, director of the trade group Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, and Elaine Harvey, Watershed Department Manager of the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission. [See Inslee’s letter below]

Drone aerial photos of Trawlers at berth at terminal 91

It’s Alaska pollock that keeps those Seattle boats afloat!

The two NPFMC seats are a big deal for Washington State because of its more than 300 fishing vessels homeported in Seattle, 226 make their living fishing in Alaskan fisheries.

A 2017 Port of Seattle Economic Report showed that commercial fishing operations there “supported $13.2 million in statewide fiscal impacts.”

The Seattle-based vessels, nearly all large trawlers, take home 74% of the value of ALL groundfish in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.

According to a NPFMC report this month on chum bycatch that will be presented at the upcoming April meeting, 92.77% of Bering Sea catcher/processing vessels harvesting pollock (including CDQ) during the B season (June through October) have a registered ownership address in Seattle.

The draft report is titled “Social Impact Assessment for Bering Sea Chum Salmon Bycatch Management.” It’s an eye opener. READ IT HERE

CDQ group Coastal Villages Research Fund’s new Seattle home Photo Credit: US Seafoods

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.

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