Experimental Fishing Permit: Approved in April by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the field testing of the “open top intermediate” pollock reduction device was tested in August. Although the device reduced pollock bycatch, we found it also reduced target flatfish catches significantly. This was obviously disappointing but the up side was that we proved the head and gut (H&G) fleet could systematically conduct a scientific experiment to improve fishing techniques.
Yellowfin Sole: Our improved halibut avoidance measures with Sea State demonstrated remarkable success. We were able to keep the yellowfin season open through the end of the year, ending just a few tons short of the quota for the first time ever when boats finally pulled out to do their shipyard in December.
Red King Crab Avoidance: Groundfish Forum vessels fishing rocksole in conjunction with our Sea State program rapidly identified high bycatch rates and successfully moved off the red king bycatch areas through a voluntary industry agreement with 100% adherence. As a result, we took under 35,000 king crab when in past years we have taken over 135,000 with that kind of king crab abundance in rocksole fishing areas.
Landing Tax Credits for research: Groundfish Forum did the pioneering work to receive permission for at-sea processors to receive tax credits for donations for marine mammal research and other research critical to the sound management of resources in the Bering Sea. Groundfish Forum is currently working to set up a fellowship where members’ tax deductible gifts to the Rasmuson Foundation (Univ. of Alaska) can be used to research the effects of trawling on flatfish habitat.
Washington DC: Groundfish Forum director and members made two trips back east to inform Congressmen from Washington, Alaska, and Oregon of the economic importance of the head & gut (H&G) sector to those states and the progress we are making on bycatch reduction.
Atka Mackerel: Groundfish Forum and Alaska Factory Trawlers Association (AFTA) worked voluntarily to solve conflicts over the Atka mackerel fishery. The fishery has been the cornerstone of many head & gut (H&G) vessels and has recently been targeted by pollock factory trawlers. Through cooperation, the need to skirmish over the issue in front of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council was averted.
Advisory Panel: Groundfish Forum, in conjunction with the efforts of Washington State representatives on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council), succeeded in getting a full time head & gut (H&G) representative on the Council’s Advisory Panel.
Halibut Mortality Avoidance Program (HMAP): Groundfish Forum successfully proposed a system to reduce halibut bycatch mortality by allowing deck sorting of halibut under a controlled and verifiable protocol. Groundfish Forum and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council will be ironing out the details and implement the deck sorting system in 1998.
Rolling Closures: Groundfish Forum worked with Alaska Groundfish Databank and Alaska Dragger Association to establish voluntary procedures to avoid the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) longline sablefish survey. This dodged the establishment of regulatory measures that would have closed large areas of the Gulf of Alaska to trawling for weeks at a time and further reduced flexibility.
Dutch Harbor and Juneau: With the help of our Dutch Harbor representative, Groundfish Forum made several trips to Unalaska to meet with the City Council and Chamber of Commerce to discuss the importance of that community to the H&G fleet. On several occasions, we also met with State of Alaska and the National Marine Fisheries Service Regional Office officials in Juneau who play a large role in the decisions made by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.