Skate Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC): Six sites with concentrations of skate eggs have been identified on the Bering Sea slope associated with the heads of canyons, and at least 2 of the areas have fishing activity. Groundfish Forum (GFF) worked with the Marine Conservation Alliance (MCA) to evaluate possible impacts of fishing gear on these sites, and what actions might be taken to designate them as Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC).
Gear Modification Research: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) considered expanding sweep modifications from the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). Testing in the Bering Sea has shown that 10” bobbins and 90’ may work best on smaller vessels, but 8” bobbins at 30’ spacing is also allowed.
Gulf of Alaska (GOA) Rationalization Workgroup: In June, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) voted to reduce the halibut cap in the GOA across the board by 15%, except for the longline catcher processors. The Council also looked at developing a program to provide tools for effective management of prohibited species catch (PSC) and bycatch control for vessels in the central GOA (CGOA) trawl groundfish fishery. Groundfish Forum (GFF) participated in an ad-hoc industry workgroup to address numerous issues involved in rationalizing the fishery with the intent of preparing a proposal for the Council.
Amendment 97: Amendment 97 allows the owner of a trawl catcher/processor (CP) vessel authorized to participate in the Amendment 80 catch share program to replace that vessel with a vessel that meets certain requirements. Implementing regulations prohibit the use of American Fisheries Act (AFA) CPs as replacement vessels. Groundfish Forum (GFF) clarified the importance of this prohibition to the sector.
Greenland Turbot Issues: The freezer longliner fishermen expressed a desire for a sector allocation of Greenland turbot to guarantee them a portion of the catch. Groundfish Forum (GFF) members unilaterally agreed to keep the turbot fishery open for all sectors, and met with longliners to address their concerns.
Steller Sea Lion Mitigation Committee (SSLMC): Todd Loomis and John Gauvin continue to serve on the SSLMC to find appropriate sea lion protection measures. The Center for Independent Experts (CIE) released a review of the 2010 SSL Biological Opinion (BiOp) that was critical of the National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS) for selective use of information and unjustified conclusions.
Marine Conservation Alliance (MCA): Groundfish Forum (GFF) Executive Director Lori Swanson served as President of MCA, of which GFF is a member. MCA worked on a variety of issues including National Standard 1, Bering Sea canyons, Pribilof Islands blue crab and skate egg concentration areas.
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES): Groundfish Forum supported Senator Begich’s bill, S. 3332 which provided for the establishment of nationally uniform and environmentally sound standards governing discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel in the navigable waters of the United States.
Economic Impact of the Puget Sound Seafood Industry: Groundfish Forum (GFF) participated in industry-wide meetings organized by Peter Phillips (Fishermen’s News) to document the important economic impact of the seafood industry in the Puget Sound region.
North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council): Groundfish Forum Executive Director Lori Swanson was nominated to replace Dave Benson on the Council and received the support of Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire for the appointment. Opposition from the pollock industry blocked her appointment and the seat went to Craig Cross instead.
Alaska Marine Science Symposium (AMSS): John Gauvin is a member of the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) which helps sponsor the yearly AMSS. The AMSS was the annual meeting of the NPRB and other science funding organizations where talks covered the methods and findings for marine science research relevant to fisheries, oceanography, ecosystem modeling and climate change.
2nd Pacific Groundfish Quota Program Workshop in Portland, OR: Groundfiish Forum Executive Director Lori Swanson attended the workshop which provided information from fishermen and other experts about the West Coast catch share fishery. The agenda included sessions on gear innovations, overfished species quota management strategies, quota financing, business planning, strategies for reducing costs and improving revenues, and discussions of other challenges.
Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) 12-01: EFP 12-01 expanded upon EFP 09-02’s initial effort to explore ways to reduce halibut bycatch mortality rates on Amendment 80 trawl catcher processors through on-deck sorting of halibut from the catch. The 2012 EFP field work was conducted between May 27 and September 19, 2012 on four Amendment 80/Alaska Seafood Cooperative (AKSC) vessels: F/T Arica, F/T Constellation, F/T Vaerdal, and the F/T US Intrepid. Primary target fisheries included yellowfin sole (in “fall” fishing mode), arrowtooth flounder, flathead sole and rock sole. The results of the EFP showed that halibut deck sorting to reduce mortality would be practical in fisheries with relatively smaller haul sizes (≤ 30 mt) and larger, easier to sort halibut to allow the catch to be sorted in a timely fashion and deck sorting in high catch fisheries with low bycatch would offer little benefit given the time and effort necessary for minimal mortality reduction or “savings”.
International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) and North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) workshop: An IPHC and Council workshop was held in April to review the IPHC stock assessment, migration models and the affects of bycatch on halibut stock. A review of the IPHC process itself was also conducted.