At the June 2019 meeting, the Council took final action to recommend adjusting Gulf of Alaska (GOA) pollock and Pacific cod seasonal allocations. The purpose of this action is to reduce operational and management inefficiencies in the Western and Central GOA trawl catcher vessel (CV) pollock and Pacific cod fisheries. The Council intends to promote opportunities to harvest the resource at times when it is most valuable and accessible and to avoid redistribution of fishing opportunities between management areas or harvest sectors (e.g., non-trawl sectors). The Council also aims to provide the fleet with additional flexibility to manage and avoid prohibited species catch (PSC). Finally, the Council’s preferred alternative is intended to be in accordance with measures that mitigate impacts on ESA-listed Steller sea lions.
The Council’s preferred alternative for pollock would modify the existing equal (25%) four-season TAC allocation to two equal (50%) seasonal allocations. The pollock A and B seasons would be combined into a season that runs from January 20 through May 31 and the C and D seasons would be combined into a season that runs from September 1 through November 1. The start date for the latter season would be moved from August 25 to September 1. The change to the start date would address the potential for the pollock C season to overlap the end of the commercial salmon harvest in some years. That overlap can cause congestion that affects individual plant facilities differently depending on throughput capacity and the characteristics of the delivering fleet.
As part of its preferred alternative for pollock, the Council also chose to maintain the 20% cap on in-year seasonal rollovers of unharvested pollock TAC. The choice to maintain the status quo was made in response to public testimony indicating that a higher cap can result in situations where underharvest in one season may be continued into the following season, further stranding pollock TAC in areas with low expected CPUE.
For Pacific cod, the Council aims to reduce the underharvest of B season TAC in the GOA trawl CV sector by moving some of the allocated season TAC to the A season when Pacific cod are typically more aggregated. The preferred alternative is structured such that seasonal allocations to other gear/operational-type sectors would not be altered. The seasonal allocation ratio across all sectors in each area (Western GOA and Central GOA) would be modified from the status quo of 60% in the A season and 40% in the B season. The new ratio would be 64% of total annual TAC in the A season and 36% in the B season.
The preferred alternatives increase flexibility in the timing of the fishery, potentially increasing yield and, in some cases, providing the fleet with an enhanced ability to minimize encounters with prohibited species (Chinook salmon and Pacific halibut). The alternatives do not pose any additional risk to the GOA pollock or Pacific cod stocks since harvest specifications would continue to control overall harvest of these target species. Likewise, the efficacy of PSC limits constraining bycatch of Chinook salmon and halibut is not affected by the alternatives.
Throughout the development of this action, the Council has articulated its intent to provide benefits to fishery participants while not adversely impacting ESA-protected Steller sea lions. The public review draft, reviewed at this meeting, provides the background information that would be necessary to begin a consultation on impacts to Steller sea lions, should that be warranted. If this action raises ESA jeopardy concerns, this action will be brought back to the Council for further consideration.
Staff contacts are Sam Cunningham and Sara Cleaver.