At the April 2019 meeting, the Council took final action to require full retention of all rockfish species for fixed gear catcher vessels (CVs) in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA). The Council’s purpose in requiring full retention of rockfish was to improve identification of species catch composition when CVs are subject to electronic monitoring, improve data collection by providing more accurate estimates of total catch, reduce incentives to discard rockfish, may reduce waste, reduce overall enforcement burden, and provide more consistency in regulations.
The Council’s preferred alternative would require full retention of rockfish species by all fixed gear CVs (hook-and-line, pot, and jig) in the BSAI and GOA. Also included as part of the preferred alternative are two options. The first option would require full retention of rockfish even if the rockfish species is on prohibited species status but would prohibit these retained rockfish from entering commerce. The second option would establish a maximum commerce allowance (MCA) of 15% for all rockfish except yelloweye rockfish which would be set 5%. The yelloweye rockfish MCA would be calculated within the overall 15% MCA. The intent of the lower yelloweye rockfish MCA is to limit incentives to target this species.
Under the preferred alternative, rockfish landed above the MCA cannot enter commerce with the exception of rockfish processed into fish meal. The purpose of the MCA is to constrain vessels from increasing rockfish incidental catch under a full retention regulation, while allowing vessel operators to sell most of the rockfish catch that is truly incidental. The Council included the fish meal exception in its preferred alternative to provide relief for shore processors that are restricted from disposing of rockfish in excess of the MCA. The Council also clarified that the fishmeal exception also applies to rockfish that are on prohibited species status.
Finally, the Council also clarified that the current regulations for demersal shelf rockfish retention in the Southeast Outside District of the GOA will remain unchanged by this preferred action.
Staff contact is Jon McCracken.