The Council initiated an analysis of alternatives to modify the existing four-season structure of the Western and Central GOA pollock fishery and the relative allocation of the trawl CV sector’s annual Pacific cod TAC across A and B seasons. For pollock, the Council will consider combining the existing A and B seasons into a single season that runs from January 20 through May 31 and combining the C and D seasons into a single season that runs from August 25 through November 1. The Council could also increase the 20% limit on inter-season rollovers of uncaught pollock TAC to 25% or 30%. For Pacific cod, options could result in as much as a 15% shift of trawl CV TAC from the B season to the A season relative to status quo.
The Council articulated the purpose and need for such an action, noting that the existing seasonal allocation of pollock and Pacific cod TAC sometimes results in inefficiencies such as unharvested groundfish and the need to fish during times when encounter rates with prohibited species – halibut and Chinook salmon – are known to be higher. Given the many existing challenges in managing and prosecuting these limited access trawl fisheries, the Council is seeking small changes that improve fishery outcomes without causing unintended redistribution of fishing opportunities across management areas or gear sectors. To the latter point, the Council considered options that would have shifted pollock TAC to the earlier part of the calendar year, but those options were not carried forward for analysis because they would have resulted in a net shift of annual TAC to one of the three affected management areas.
The Council recognized that the existing seasonal allocations were implemented as Steller sea lion (SSL) protection measures, and that modification requires analysis of potential effects on SSLs and consultation with NMFS Protected Resources division once a preferred action has been recommended. The need to consult on SSL effects does not affect the Council’s timeline for developing a preferred alternative. Staff contact is Sam Cunningham.