The Council reviewed four discussion papers on the GOA groundfish fisheries. Two papers assessed trends in the timing of Chinook salmon and halibut bycatch in the Western GOA pollock and Pacific cod trawl fisheries, respectively. Another paper considered the efficacy and indirect effects of reducing the 300,000 lb. trawl trip limit for Western GOA pollock as a bycatch reduction strategy. Yet another paper outlined tools and options available to reduce the amount of GOA Pacific cod B season TAC that is going unharvested. After reviewing these four papers, the Council tasked staff to develop two subsequent discussion papers.
The first paper will evaluate changing the seasonal allocation of pollock TAC across areas 610/620/630/640 (Western GOA to West Yakutat), and Pacific cod TAC across seasons. Options are intended to increase the amount of annual TAC that gets harvested, while providing the fleet with additional flexibility to fish when encounters with prohibited species (Chinook salmon and halibut) are expected to be lower. The NMFS Alaska Region Office will track the development of proposed changes in regard to their potential effect on ESA-listed Steller sea lion stocks.
- TAC for the pollock trawl fishery is currently apportioned equally across four seasons (ABCD), and then apportioned across areas within each season according to estimated biomass distribution. The Council’s options would not change season start/end dates or the process to apportion a season’s TAC across areas. The options include shifting more of the annual TAC to the earlier part of the calendar year (A/B seasons), and/or combining the A/B seasons and the C/D seasons so that the year consists of only two seasonal allocations (Jan. 20 to May 31, and Aug. 25 to Nov. 1). The most dramatic shift under consideration would allocate 60% of the GOA pollock TAC to the A/B season(s) and 40% to the C/D season(s). The Council will also consider increasing the limit on the amount of uncaught TAC that can be rolled over from one season to another (either within the same GOA area or to another area). That limit is currently set at 20% of the seasonal TAC in the area receiving the rollover, but could be increased to 25% or 30%.
- Pacific cod TAC is allocated to A and B seasons at a 60/40 ratio. The TAC for each season is divided among five gear/operational-type sectors in the WGOA and six sectors in the CGOA. The Council will consider shifting B season TAC to the A season, up to a maximum change of 75% for the A season and 25% for the B season. This change would apply to all gear/operational-type sectors in the WGOA and CGOA, but would not change sector-specific allocations.
The second paper will explore options for vessel length-based limits on participation in the Western GOA (Area 610) pollock trawl fishery. Options include a size limit of 58’ LOA, or a sideboard that caps the participation of vessels greater than 58’ at a maximum percentage of the area’s annual TAC. The Council directed staff to provide information that will help define a reasonable range of options for sideboard criteria, including but not limited to historical harvest during a set of years. The paper will address how such an action might impact processors, communities, and vessel-size classes that participate in the 610 pollock fishery.
Staff contact is Sam Cunningham.