A Model Fishery in Bycatch Reduction
Groundfish Forum members have worked closely with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) and NOAA fisheries for over a decade to pioneer modern fishing techniques and innovative practices to reduce bycatch.
Since the adoption of Amendment 80 by the Council in 2008, our fleet has developed numerous tools to minimize halibut bycatch, including modifying our gear with halibut excluders and deck sorting by our crews to minimize halibut mortality. The fleet mandates participation in a cooperative Halibut Avoidance Plan which establishes a performance standard and other incentives to keep bycatch low throughout the year and is supported by real-time data collection and monitoring.
Using all these measures, our fleet has attained one of the lowest bycatch rates in the country when compared to other multi-species trawl fisheries. Our halibut bycatch has been reduced by 49% since 2007 and now makes up only 0.4% of the catch.
Initiatives to reduce crab bycatch were among the first projects taken on by Groundfish Forum and since 2008, our Bering Sea crab bycatch is down by 30% on average. As Bering Sea crab stocks fluctuate due to the impacts of climate change, we continue to work with crab fishermen and research organizations to develop innovative research that may further reduce crab bycatch while keeping our fisheries viable.