The Council discussed herring prohibited species catch (PSC) management in the Bering Sea following unanticipated high catch of herring in the pollock fishery A season in 2020, and affirmed NMFS’ authority to use inseason adjustments to monitor and manage PSC closures during the summer.
By regulation, the PSC trigger limit for herring is 1% of the total estimated biomass of herring in the Bering Sea. This trigger limit is apportioned among target fisheries during the annual specifications process. When reached, three different herring savings areas (HSA) in the Bering Sea close for specified time periods. Two of the HSAs close for periods of time in the summer, and one closes in the fall and following winter. The establishment of the HSAs date back to Amendment 16a to the BSAI FMP, implemented in 1991, and were designated based upon bycatch data and migration assumptions from the 1980s as well as then-low BSAI-wide herring biomass estimates.
The Council discussed current concerns about the closure of HSAs in the pollock B season, the resulting movement of the pollock fleet away from productive fishing areas early in the B season, the potential for increased Chinook salmon bycatch as a result of longer B season fishing, the dated information upon which the HSAs were designated, as well as the considerably higher herring biomass currently than when the trigger limit was established in 1991. Given these considerations, the Council voted unanimously to recommend that NMFS use their inseason authority to adjust the HSA2 closure and allow for directed fishing within it. The NMFS will monitor for bycatch rates of herring and Chinook salmon within and outside of HSA2 during the 2020 B season, and will make adjustments to the closure and its timing as necessary. This will provide additional flexibility to achieve an appropriate balance between bycatch management of all PSC species and the achievement of OY on an annual basis. The agency further indicated that it will conduct tribal consultations on this herring issue.
Staff contact is Diana Stram.