NPFMC Protected Species Measures
Marine mammals, seabirds, and other species may be impacted by fishing activities through competition for prey, direct mortality, and disturbance. The Council and NOAA Fisheries Service seek to limit these impacts through fishery management measures; additional proactive and voluntary measures taken by the fishing industry also support this goal.
Protected Species in Alaska Waters
Steller Sea Lions
In 2010, the National Marine Fisheries Service completed a Biological Opinion that determined the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands FMP resulted in Jeopardy and Adverse Modification to the western DPS of Steller sea lions. The Council continues to track the process as the Biological Opinion is reviewed.
Northern Fur Seals
In 2003, the Council appointed a Fur Seal Committee to monitor fur seal issues. The National Marine Fisheries Service is now seeking comments on subsistence harvest reports from 2008 to 2010, and subsistence needs from 2011 to 2013.
Northern Sea Otter
The southwest Alaska stock of northern sea otters was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act on August 9, 2005 (70 Federal Register 46366). On February 23, 2006, NMFS submitted to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) a request for reinitiation of Section 7 consultation on the effects of Federal groundfish and State parallel groundfish fisheries on the northern sea otter and a Biological Assessment. On May 15, the USFWS responded to the NMFS request for consultation and concluded that no further consultation with NMFS is required; NMFS concurred in a letter dated May 25, 2006. The Council will continue to monitor sea otter issues.
As part of its program to reduce salmon bycatch in Alaska fisheries, the Council took action at the June 2011 meeting to limit Chinook salmon bycatch in the Western and Central Gulf of Alaska pollock fisheries. The Council adopted a prohibited species catch (PSC) limit of 25,000 Chinook salmon for the western and central GOA pollock fisheries. Also at the June 2011 meeting, the Council held its first initial review on an analysis evaluation proposed management measures to minimize non-Chinook salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. The proposed measures include hard caps on the pollock fishery, triggered time and area closures, and participation in the Rolling Hotspot (RHS) Program.
In 2004, the Council recommended and NMFS implemented regulations to minimize interactions between seabirds and longline vessels greater than 55 ft LOA. These regulations resulted in a decline in seabird bycatch of 73% compared to the late 1990s. The Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service continue to track developments in seabird bycatch reduction.
The Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Region 7, Alaska, Marine Mammals Management Office is responsible for the management of the three Alaska species: polar bears, sea otters, and Pacific walrus. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council works cooperatively with all these agencies to ensure actions taken by the Council do not negatively affect any of these species.
Northern Right Whale: In May 2008 NMFS designated critical habitat for the population of northern right whales that inhabit the North Pacific Ocean. Maps of the designated critical habitat areas and additional northern right whale information are on the NMFS website.
Cook Inlet Beluga Whales: On April 11, 2011, NMFS designated two areas in Cook Inlet as Critical Habitat for the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale. The critical habitat comprises 3,016 square miles (7,809 square kilometers) of marine and estuarine environments considered by scientists to be essential for the whales’ survival. The Council continues to receive period briefings on the status of Cook Inlet belugas.