2010 Issues, Initiatives & Projects

United States Seafoods, L.L.C (USS): In 2010, Groundfish Forum welcomed United States Seafoods as a new member along with its 5 factory trawl vessels:  F/T Seafreeze Alaska, F/T Ocean Alaska, F/T Alliance, F/T Legacy, F/T Vaerdal.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Changes: Groundfish Forum along with other industry associations hired an outside consultant to submit comments on the NPDES permit changes, on the implications for vessels having to grind their waste to the 0.5 inch grinder requirements and to prepare a white paper to review grind size standards and options for changes, and review the statutory authority for EPA jurisdiction beyond 12 miles.

Proposed Change to Severe Weather Guidelines for Offloads: The Coast Guard commander in Anchorage proposed to change the severe weather threshold from 45 knots to 35 knots.  Groundfish Forum supported this change.

Bering Sea Aleutian Island Crab Bycatch: Groundfish Forum and the Alaska Crab Coalition held meetings to discuss red king crab bycatch south of Amak Island and north of Unimak Island to try to come up with mutual agreements outside of the Council.

Halibut Bycatch Work Group: Groundfish Forum and other industry groups formed a halibut bycatch workgroup in preparation for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (Council’s) plan to reduce halibut prohibited species caps (PSC) in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) with support from the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). The workgroup hired Gerry Merrigan to draft a background document to give to the US delegation that would be attending a closed door IPHC workshop in August.

Groundfish Retention Standard (GRS): In April 2010, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) requested that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) provide a report reviewing the enforcement and prosecution concerns raised during the development of the GRS Program, Amendments 80 and 93 to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) area, and any new concerns about monitoring and enforcing the GRS program identified by the agency or industry participants, and potential concepts for refinement of the GRS Program to address these concerns.  At the June 2010, the Council reviewed the status report on the implementation of the GRS Program and moved to permanently remove the GRS.

Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC): In 2010, there was a call for HAPC proposals under the general 5 year schedule.  The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) recommended designating 6 skate nursery areas as HAPC’s.

Vessel Liability: In 2010, the House passed HR 5503, a bill that would result in sizable increases in insurance premiums for commercial fishing vessel owners and create liability exposure that couldn’t be covered by insurance.  Senate bill 3755, introduced after HR 5503 was a significant improvement over earlier Senate legislation (S.3600) as well as the House measure but it didn’t go far enough so Groundfish Forum along with 9 Pacific Northwest and Alaska fishing organizations submitted two draft amendments to S. 3755 to the Alaska and Washington Senators’ offices, and asked that any Senate language include those amendments.

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.

Gulf of Alaska (GOA) Bairdi Bycatch Issue: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) addressed bairdi bycatch in the GOA trawl fisheries in October 2010.  The proposed alternatives included broad area closures on important flatfish grounds and increased observer requirements so Groundfish Forum worked with the analysts as they developed the issue.

Atka Mackerel and Stellar Sea Lion (SSL) Research: Dr. Andrew Trites from the Marine Marine Mammal Research Unit, Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia prepared a paper examining the hypothesis that Atka mackerel fishing is related to the SSL decline in the Aleutian Islands (AI). In the study, he tested NMFS’ conclusion that the relative intensity of the groundfish fishery in the Central and Western Aleutians, particularly within sea lion critical habitat, is negatively associated with sea lion population trends.  Dr. Trites ran 54 models which all showed zero negative correlation between the amount of fish caught and sea lion trends and in some cases there were positive correlations.  All 54 models were submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in August as a comment on the sea lion Biop.  This research was done under funding Groundfish Forum provided to UBC’s Marine Mammal Unit.

Halibut Mortality EFP Phase 2: In 2010, several workshops and meetings were held for interested parties to come up with ideas and designs to move halibut off the vessels via chutes and to develop automated systems of weighing or measuring halibut individually and recording the measurements/weights into a database.

Sweep Modifications and Reopening of the Wedge: In 2009, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) approved the final rule requiring modified sweeps for flatfish target fishing throughout the Bering Sea and reopening H&G access to the “wedge” area or modified trawl gear zone (MGTZ) between Nunivak and St. Matthews.  A meeting was held in October 2010 at the Groundfish Forum (GFF) with Dr. Craig Rose from the NMFS Resource and Conservation Engineering (RACE) Division and GFF captains and operators to discuss issues on the technical aspects of meeting the new sweep modification regulations to go into effect January 2011.

Non Target Species: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) is under a mandate in the new Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) to manage non-similar species separately, beginning in 2011. That would mean shark, squid, octopus, sculpins and skates would be split out as separate categories and managed under separate allowable biological catch (ABC’s) and total allowable catch (TAC).  Forage fish such as capelin, and grenadiers would also be addressed.  Groundfish Forum is represented on the non-target committee and was involved with management ideas for this issue.

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