NPFMC opts for more analysis on chum bycatch taken by pollock trawlers

Alaskans along the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers don't care where the salmon taken as trawl bycatch originate; they just want to be able to catch some!

by | October 9, 2023

Salmon genetics likely to dictate any decision; more “discussion” in February

Last April the North Pacific Fishery Management Council rejected calls for a chum cap by its AP and new Salmon Committee, instead opting for “more policing” and “self-regulation.”

“From my seat, this is now a humanitarian crisis,” said Acting NPFMC chair, Bill Tweit of Washington. “Three consecutive years of people of Western Alaska not having access to one of the most important sources of food, one of the most important elements in their culture, one of the most important parts of their lives is, to me, unimaginably devastating… However, the full extent of the council’s ability to remedy the crisis is not clear.”

In response to the chum cap recommendations, Stephanie Madsen, executive director of the At-sea Processors Association, said “There’s no way the pollock fleet can sit here and say we will accept these,” claiming the hard caps “could shut down the Alaska pollock fleet entirely,” not just her member companies.  

Her organization represents Bering Sea pollock fishing giants American Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, Arctic Storm, Coastal Villages and Glacier Fish.

During last year’s Alaska Bycatch Task Force meetings, Madsen always diverted discussions about trawl salmon bycatch to the need “for more studies to determine the origins of the Western AK salmon.”

Madsen should ask people from the Yukon and Kuskokwim River villages, who have gone without salmon for four years, if they care where the salmon passing them by come from. I have posed that question to several people from the region and each has said they don’t care where the salmon originate “they just want to be able to catch some.

Laine welch

Below is the graph that will likely be used as a basis for any chum bycatch restrictions by pollock trawlers

According to the data by trawl lobbyists and the NPFMC data, less than 9% of the chum bycatch was destined to return to Western AK rivers. Salmon that originated from Asia or other regions would be discounted.

NPFMC motion on chum salmon bycatch

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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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