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Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

Analysis of Bering Sea Salmon Bycatch Reduction Measures 

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Spring 2015
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AFSC scientists provided support to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) in early April as the Council took final action on a comprehensive package to refine salmon bycatch management measures in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. While bycatch in recent years has been lower than historical levels, concerns remain due to critically low western Alaskan and Upper Yukon Chinook stocks, a high proportion of western Alaskan Chinook in the stock composition of the bycatch, and the potential impact rate of the pollock fishery on those stocks should current cap levels be reached in times of low abundance.  

The Council therefore selected a preferred alternative that modifies current management of chum and Chinook salmon bycatch. The detailed analysis that was prepared covered a broad range of alternative management measures. Thanks to salmon genetics samples collected by the AFSC’s Fisheries Monitoring and Assessment Division and processed and published by ABL geneticists, plus further evaluation to adult equivalent mortality, impacts to western Alaska stocks could be estimated. The preferred alternative combines a range of management measures including incorporation of chum salmon into existing industry-managed incentive plan agreements (IPAs), tools to facilitate flexibility for the pollock fleet to best operate at times of lower bycatch rates by shifting quota to the winter season, more stringent IPA provisions to require excluders and reduce vessel-level and late summer season Chinook bycatch rates, as well as a reduction in overall cap levels in times of low western Alaskan Chinook salmon abundance.  The Council’s preferred alternative explicitly reduces the bycatch caps when an index of western Alaskan and Upper Yukon Chinook salmon abundance is below a designated threshold.  The reduction in cap levels in times of low abundance is designed to provide increased incentives to the pollock fleet to reduce bycatch to the maximum extent practicable to help in efforts to rebuild critically low western Alaskan Chinook stocks.  These reduced cap levels will be enacted in all years where the index for assessing the status of western Alaskan Chinook stocks is below a designated threshold that indicates very poor run sizes.

By Jim Ianelli and Alan Haynie

 

 

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