Vote to “abstain” by ADFG Commissioner, “No” vote by Yukon rep caused measure to fail
The Alaska Bycatch Review Task Force has one more meeting on November 15 before it writes up its final report to the governor on recommendations “with rationales” in three primary areas: research, state engagement and management.
One that won’t be included is a recommendation “that Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands pelagic (mid-water) trawl pollock gear be considered for re-definition as bottom trawl gear (non-pelagic) and that all bottom trawl gear closures apply.”
The recommendation, offered by fishery consultant Linda Kozak of Kodiak, follows new findings by the North Pacific Council in April that pelagic trawl catcher vessels are averaging 40% of the time on the ocean bottom. For catcher processors, the “mid-water” gear averaged 85% on the bottom. It was the first time the amount of bottom contact by mid-water trawl gear was put in writing.
“It was a real eye-opener,” said Kozak at a Nov. 7 task force meeting, adding that she is “very concerned.”
“Now pelagic gear can still fish in areas banned to bottom trawls,” Kozak added. “We have an area in the Bering Sea closed to red king crab for the second year and yet pollock trawling is going on in the same area with no restrictions. Yet at the same time, we’re trying to protect Bering Sea crab.”
“It should all be considered on the bottom until more is known,” echoed task force member Erik Velsko, a crabber from Homer. “A fishery is closed but trawlers are on top of the same areas. It makes no sense.”
Task force member Stephanie Madsen, executive director of the At-Sea Processors Association and a former NPFMC chair, spoke against the re-definition calling the Council report “an estimate” and “not proven” as to how much gear is on the bottom.
Madsen added the eye-brow raising comment that “it’s been known all along by many.”
“The trawl sector is always skating around definitions,” retorted member Raymond May, a Kodiak salmon fisherman.
Madsen added that the topic “will be a major topic of discussion by the North Pacific Council.”
Yes, no doubt it will be decades of discussion and “business as usual” if the Council follows its usual pattern of inaction regarding bycatch constraints.
The final bycatch task force vote on the recommendation to re-define pelagic trawl gear failed in a 5-5 split.
Voting yes were Kozak, Velsko, May, Mike Flores, a sport charter operator from Ninilchik, and Tommy Sheridan, a consultant and member of the N. Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission.
The nay votes included Madsen, Ragnar Alstrom, Executive Director for the Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association, Jim Anderson, Director of the Division of Economic Development & Investments for the state Department of Commerce, Duncan Fields of Kodiak who represents two Alaska Native corporations, and Brian Gabriel, Mayor of Kenai.
Doug Vincent Lang, Commissioner of the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, voted to “abstain” thereby killing the recommendation.