Reducing Bycatch in Gulf of Alaska Groundfish

A new plan is being crafted by federal managers for Gulf of Alaska groundfish fisheries that will reduce bycatch by trawlers, and it will very likely result in a catch share plan. Now is the time for fishing residents to make sure the new program protects their access to local resources and sustains, instead of drains, their coastal communities.

Currently, the plan includes trawlers in the Central Gulf and both trawl and pot cod gear in the Western Gulf.

“Catch share programs certainly can benefit the long term viability of the resource in a fishing community, but only if they are designed right and the long term health of the resource, the community and genuine bycatch reduction measures are built in up front,” said Theresa Peterson of Kodiak, a spokesperson for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AMCC) and a member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Advisory panel.

Peterson added that it is really tough to add in community protections after a privatization plan hits the water.

“We’ve all learned lessons from past programs, such as the rapid consolidation of ownership, reduced opportunities for crew and captains and shore support workers, the increased costs of entering into a fishery and the potential for absentee ownership and quota leasing,” she said.

Using the same privatization model as with Alaska halibut, sablefish and Bering Sea crab will serve to shrink fishing communities that depend on groundfish, insisted Seth Macinko, a fisheries professor at the University of Rhode Island who has spent decades studying catch share programs around the world. At a recent meeting with Kodiak City and Borough officials, he stressed the importance of being involved from the beginning.

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