2009 Issues, Initiatives & Projects

PribiIof Island Collaborative (PIC): Groundfish Forum is a member of the PIC, a consortium of Priblovians, industry and environmental groups that focuses on issues that affect the islands, like seabirds, fur seals, halibut and economic development.  The consortium agreement is that members would work together to explore alternatives to the current area management.

International Arctic Fisheries Symposium (IAFS): More than 180 delegates from eight nations met in Anchorage to discuss conservation of fish stocks and the potential for future fisheries management in the Arctic Ocean.  The symposium provided a forum to discuss the impact of climate change on fish stocks and the new accessibility to the central Arctic with ice retreat.  Lori Swanson gave a presentation on the Northern Bering Sea Research Area (NBSRA).

Non-Target Species Committee for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council): Under the new National Standard 1, the Council is under a mandate to split species into separate groups as much as possible and determine which are target fisheries vs. eco-system components.  Lori Swanson is a member of the Non-Target Species Committee.

Health Care Reform: An industry workgroup which included Groundfish Forum, held regular meetings on how the proposed health care reform would impact the fishing industry. One major issue to be was what constitutes a seasonal employee vs. permanent one.

Vessel Replacement: In 2009, the Amendment 80 (non-AFA) vessel replacement was to be included with the AFA vessel replacement in the Coast Guard bill.  Groundfish Forum worked with Jensen Maritime on diagrams of various sized vessels to show the basic space need and demonstrate how the functional room on board is increased or decreased with size and the limitations created by decreases in vessel size.

North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) Advisory Panel (AP): Lori Swanson, Groundfish Forum’s Executive Director continues her tenure as Vice-Chair on the AP.

Ocean Policy Task Force (OPTF): The OPTF was formed in June 2009 to address broad ocean policy, ocean governance and spatial management concerns and to give recommendations to the President on policy and governance on spatial management.  Lori Swanson presented testimony on support for the existing regional council system, preferable over a too far removed from actual fisheries centralized management system and against blanket percentage closures for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Council Presentation on Trawl Gear: Lori would like to give an evening presentation to the Council on trawl gear to educate them about bottom trawl and sweeps.   NETS has offered to loan their trawl model.  Lori will ask for it to be put on the schedule in February.

North Pacific Research Board (NPRB): Groundfish Forum supported the proposal submitted by Oregon State University, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Yamashina Institute of Ornithology for the continued translocation, hand-rearing, and satellite telemetry of short-tailed albatross chicks.  The highly endangered seabird nests primarily on an unstable slope of an active volcano in Japan and are continually threatened by monsoon rains and volcanic eruptions.  The Short-tailed Albatross Recovery Plan identified the establishment of new breeding colonies on non-volcanic islands as a prerequisite to recovery.  NPRB funding will allow the continuation of this relocation project, and will complement funds and labor being supplied by Japan.

Flatfish Trawl Sweep Modification Regulations: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s  (Council) decision to require modified sweeps for all vessels engaging in directed flatfish fishing in Bering Sea management area starting in January of 2011 was finalized in 2009.  In November of 2009, John Gauvin and Dr. Craig Rose of the National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS) Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering (RACE) Division held a workshop for captains, gear manufacturers, and other interested participants in the flatfish fisheries of the Bering Sea to provide information on what the sweep modifications would entail in terms of gear and handling. The objective of the modification is to lift the sweeps and reduce effects on typical Bering Sea shelf living structure forming invertebrates found on the sand and mud substrates of the Bering Sea shelf.  The H&G sector was recognized for being proactive and coming up with a way for flatfish fishing to reduce its impact on the seafloor.  (Include pics and diagrams below)

International Fishery Observer in Portland Maine: John Gauvin and a Groundfish Forum member were on the panel to look at the practical applications for at-sea monitoring via observers and electronic monitoring.    John gave a talk that described the halibut deck sorting EFP fieldwork that had just concluded and discussed ways to improve the practicality and monitoring aspects of halibut sorting by focusing in the future on electronic monitoring (EM) instead of people monitors under a protocol where the crew is responsible for deck sorting and accounting for halibut catch and the regular observers assess halibut viability for a SAMPLE of the halibut.

Experimental Fishing Permit (EFP) to Sort Halibut on Deck to Reduce Mortality: The 2009 EFP was designed to take a first look at whether halibut mortality rates could be reduced.  The charge of the EFP was to collect viability information on each halibut so that a large dataset would be generated to allow the ability to look at the variability in halibut viability rates within and between tows and EFP vessels. The results from the field work showed good potential to reduce halibut mortality rates on Amendment 80 vessels.

New Zealand Seafood Industry Council and the Seafood Industry Conference: The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council Ltd holds annual conferences with keynote speakers discussing current issues and opportunities.  John Gauvin gave a presentation on “Research collaborations to improve selectivity for flatfish and cod trawling in Alaska 1997 to present. The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council Ltd works on behalf of the New Zealand seafood industry which is made up of about 2500 participating enterprises, including fishermen and aquaculturists and family-owned, publicly listed and joint venture seafood companies, fisheries management organizations and retailers.

Northern Bristol Bay Trawl Area (NBBTA) Issue and Togiak Agreement: Concern about the effects of the yellowfin sole fishery in the vicinity of Togiak and Cape Constantine on local fisheries and walrus was presented to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (Council) in October of 2008.  Central to this was that local halibut fishermen believed that the decline in their halibut catches was due to halibut bycatch in the yellowfin sole fishery in the NBBTA. The actual reason that halibut catches in the vicinity of Togiak and Cape Constantine have declined is unknown, but representatives of the Amendment 80 sector, major participants in the NBBTA yellowfin fishery, decided to talk to local fishermen to discuss how these concerns could be addressed.  In February of 2009, discussions were held between representatives of the Amendment 80 sector, halibut fishermen, herring fishermen, and walrus hunters from Togiak and Dillingham who attended a meeting organized by the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC).  Discussions continued at the April 2009 Council meeting in Anchorage where measures were identified and the Amendment 80 sector agreed to voluntarily implement closed area and season changes for its member vessels in 2009 for any fishing inside the NBBTA.  The Council was initially poised to close the Togiak fishery in 2009, but due to the agreement, the Council was able to keep it open.  And despite concessions in area and time fished, Amendment 80 vessels were able to maintain access to the most productive fishing areas.

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