NMFS consulted with the Council on an exempted fishing permit (EFP) application to test salmon excluder devices presented by Mr. John Gauvin. This EFP will continue the development and testing of Chinook salmon excluder devices in the Bering Sea pollock trawl fishery. Setting up the experiment under an EFP allows for more rigorous scientific design through systematic gear trials. Small observed increases in Chinook bycatch rates in the fishery, combined with comparably lower mean escapement rates for Chinook in the Bering Sea (7% to 18%) than in the Gulf (35% to 55%), demonstrated the need for improved excluder devices designed specifically for the Bering Sea fleet. This EFP will:
- Exempt three participating vessels from selected observer requirements;
- Allow an exemption to fish in areas otherwise closed to fishing with trawl gear; and
- Allow groundfish and prohibited species taken during the experiment to not be counted against the annual TAC and PSC limits.
The Council voiced its support for this continued research on development of excluder devices to reduce salmon bycatch, and recommended the motion that NMFS grant the EFP. The SSC and AP provided specific recommendations for excluder testing and evaluation, and noted that the EFP will result in gear modifications that are more effective and reflective of the fleets’ power capabilities. Council members encourage the collaborative effort of the industry as well as the level of fleet engagement in the project. Upon receipt of the permit, device testing is planned to begin in late winter/early spring of 2018 and will continue through the 2020 season. Staff contact is Sara Cleaver.