The Council chose to take no further action on a preliminary/initial review analysis of a proposed action that would set crab prohibited species catch (PSC) in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish trawl fisheries to the lowest limits when the corresponding crab directed fishery is closed. As a result, bycatch limits for Bristol Bay red king crab (BBRKC), Eastern Bering Sea (EBS) Tanner crab, and EBS snow crab in the groundfish trawl fisheries will continue to be set based on crab abundance, but not explicitly linked to the open/closed status of the corresponding directed crab fishery. This means there could be times when the crab directed fishery is closed but the PSC limits for that species are not at their lowest abundance-based limit.
The proposed action was developed by the Council in December 2019 in response to public testimony. The intent considered was to balance the impacts of depressed crab stocks across fisheries and communities and align management across fisheries. However, after reviewing the analysis, the Council determined that the proposed action would have minimal impact to the PSC limits for BBRKC – the stock most at risk of reaching an overfished status. This is in part because the lowest BBRKC PSC limit for the groundfish trawl fisheries already align with the thresholds in the state harvest strategy for determining whether to open the BBRKC fishery, thus these management systems are already implicitly linked. The action alternative may have resulted in lower Tanner and snow crab PSC limits, but since crab PSC usage in these fisheries has typically been well below the lowest PSC limits, the additional incentive to change groundfish trawl fishing behavior under this action may have been limited. The Council noted that for all crab species considered, observed trawl bycatch represents a small fraction of the fisheries-induced crab mortality. Thus, an isolated action to lower the crab trawl PSC limits may increase costs and decrease revenue in the groundfish trawl fisheries without producing substantial benefits to the crab stocks.
Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.