NPFMC new Salmon Bycatch Committee is top heavy with trawlers

The NPFMC's new Salmon Bycatch Committee will "review" and "discuss" at its first meeting on Nov. 28.

by | November 6, 2022

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Four of 12 members represent Western AK tribal groups

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council last week announced the members it has appointed to the newly formed Salmon Bycatch Committee, which will hold its first meeting on November 28.

The NPFMC Salmon Bycatch Committee will be co-chaired by two Council members, Andy Mezirow and Rachel Baker.

In its announcement, the NPFMC said “the November meeting will provide an opportunity for Committee introductions, review of a draft Terms of Reference for the Committee, review and recommendations on the Council staff discussion paper on chum salmon bycatch, and if possible, review of the State of Alaska Bycatch Taskforce recommendations on salmon. 

Here are the members of the Salmon Bycatch Committee and their affiliations:

Rachel Baker (co-chair) of Juneau is deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and most often represents the State of Alaska at NPFMC meetings.

Ruth Christiansen of Seattle is co-chair of the NPFMC’s Advisory Panel and works as a Science and Policy Analyst for United Catcher Boats, a seafood trade association representing owners and operators of 69 pollock and Pacific cod catcher vessels in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. 

Oscar Evon of Kwigillingok is Director of Regional Affairs for the Coastal Villages Region Fund (CVFR), one of six AK Native CDQ groups. CVFR represents 20 villages: Platinum, Goodnews Bay, Quinhagak, Kongiganak, Eek, Kwigillingok, Tuntuntuliak, Napaskiak, Oscarville, Napakiak, Kipnuk, Chefornak, Nightmute, Mekoryuk, Tununak, Toksook Bay, Newtok, Chevak, Hooper Bay, and Scammon Bay.

On its website, CVRF highlights “our vessels” – Arctic Sea, a 135 foot crab vessel, North Sea, a 126 foot crab vessels, Flicka, a 123 foot cod longline vessel, Lilli Ann, a 141 foot longline cod vessel, and Northern Hawk, 341 foot pollock trawler. The CVRF website also touts a page called “Pollock Provides.”

Serena Fitka of Valdez is executive director of the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association.

She grew up in St. Mary’s and graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a degree in Business Administration. Fitka has worked for Yupiit of Andreafski Tribal Government, Tanana Chiefs Conference, and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

YRDFA was created in 1990 to conserve these salmon runs by giving a voice to the people who have managed the resource for thousands of years.

Mellisa Maktuayaq Johnson of Anchorage is a Council Advisory Panel member who represents subsistence users. She is Iñupiaq born and raised in Nome.  She previously worked as Executive Director with Bering Sea Elders Group and currently works with the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Tribal Consortium (AYK TC) as a Government Affairs and Policy Director. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration with a minor in Human Services from Alaska Pacific University and is also a US Air Force veteran. 

Stephanie Madsen of Juneau is Executive Director of the At-Sea Processors Association (APA)and a former NPFMC chair. APA represents five member companies that own and operate 15 catcher/processor vessels that participate principally in the Alaska pollock fishery and west coast Pacific whiting fishery.

The APA website says “By weight, these abundant, well managed groundfish fisheries account for more than one-third of all fish harvested in the U.S. each year.”

And despite an April NPFMC study that stated for the first time that pelagic gear (mid-water) can average up to 85% on the bottom, the APA website still claims: “Pollock aggregate in enormous schools and are harvested using “midwater” trawl nets that are not dragged along the ocean floor.  As a result, the pollock fishery is a very “clean” fishery, that is, non-pollock species account for about 1% of the catch.”  

“There’s room for everyone on God’s green earth as long as we are doing it responsibly and sustainably. I’m not quite sure why the anti-trawl voice is increasing in volume.”


Andy Mezirow (co-chair) of Seward operates Gray Light Sportfishing Charters. He served four years on the NPFMC Advisory Panel before being twice appointed as the recreational fishing representative on the Council.

Elizabeth Reed of Puyallup, WA is Director of Accounting for Westward Seafoods  a wholly owned subsidiary of Maruha Nichiro, Japan’s largest seafood company. Westward is a vessel management company that oversees the administration and operations of five US A catcher vessels; the Alaskan Command, F/V Chelsea K, Pacific Knight, F/V Viking and the Westward I. The company’s main production plant is located in Dutch Harbor and its vessels target pollock, cod, halibut, black cod, king crab, snow crab (Opilio) and Dungeness crab. 

Steve Ricci is quota manager of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, a CDQ group headquartered in Dillingham. It represents the villages of Aleknagik, Clarks Point, Dillingham, Egegik, Ekuk, Ekwok, King Salmon, Levelock, Manokotak, Naknek, Pilot Point, Portage Creek, Port Heiden, South Naknek, Togiak, Twin Hills and Ugashik.

Below is a chart showing BBEDC’s investments in Bering Sea fishing operations:

Kevin Whitworth, who grew up in McGrath, AK is executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission headquartered in Bethel.

KRITFC member tribes are: Nikolai, Telida, McGrath, Takotna, Georgetown, Stony River, Sleetmute, Crooked Creek, Napaimute, Chuathbaluk, Upper Kalskag, Lower Kalskag, Aniak, Tuluksak, Akiak, Akiachak, Kwethluk, Bethel, Napaskiak, Napakiak, Atmautluak, Kasigluk, Eek, Cherfornak, and Quinhagak.

The Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission was established in 2015 as part of the long-standing desire of Kuskokwim River tribes and rural residents to engage as co-managers of the fisheries resources.

The Kuskokwim River is 700 miles long with a drainage area of 48,000 square miles. It is the longest free flowing river in the United States and the ninth largest by average discharge.

Mike Williams of Akiak is the Tribal Chief of the Akiak Native Community. He also is a candidate for President of the Yukon Kuskokwim Regional Tribal Government (YKRTG) which is holding its election on November 8.

First established on an interim basis in February of 2021, the YKRTG is a new constitutional Tribal government open to the 56 federally recognized sovereign Tribal Governments in the YK region. Williams is an enrolled tribal member of the Alaska Native Community and Alaska’s Regional Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians. Mike has been serving the Tribal people of Akiak and the YK region for nearly four decades as a tribal leader and advocate for substance abuse prevention, improving education and champion for indigenous rights.

For more information on the NPFMC Salmon Bycatch Committee, contact Dr. Diana Stram –

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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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