The Council received a number of status reports related to BSAI and GOA salmon bycatch, including genetic stock of origin reports for chum and Chinook encountered as bycatch in both the GOA and BSAI, eastern Bering Sea pollock fishery incentive plan agreement (IPA) reports, and an update from the SeaShare food donation program. These annual reports were provided for two years because the April 2020 Council meeting was cancelled.
Geneticists from the NMFS AFSC Auke Bay lab provided reports on the stock of origin of Chinook and chum salmon bycatch for the 2018-2019 Bering Sea pollock fishery, the GOA pollock fishery, GOA rockfish (and arrowtooth) catcher vessel trawl fishery and the GOA non-pollock catcher processor trawl fisheries. Results were presented at a finer scale spatial and temporal resolution than in past years. On average in the Bering Sea, the relative proportion of western Alaskan rivers represented in the bycatch increased from low levels in 2017 to contributions more consistent with previous years. There were proportional declines in the contribution from British Columbian stocks, from previous estimates. Chum bycatch continues to be dominated by Asian-origin fish. Age-specific stock composition results are lacking for Chinook but a backlog of scales for both Chinook and chum is being processed for ageing.
The Council requested prioritization for ageing backlogged Chinook scales in order to update the age-length key used in the BSAI Chinook adult equivalence (AEQ) model, and as soon as that information is available, requested an update of the model and the analysis of the impact of bycatch on Western Alaskan Chinook stocks. The Council looks forward to continued progress updates from the inter-agency Salmon Bycatch Workgroup on work to improve the efficiency of stock identification and other innovations to improve information available for management.
Per regulation, eastern Bering Sea pollock IPA representatives provide written annual reports on their measures to reduce and avoid Chinook and chum bycatch. The reports from all three sectors (inshore catcher vessel, catcher processor, and mothership) are posted online, and representatives gave verbal presentations to the Council. A voluntary update was provided by SeaShare, a non-profit food donation program which is authorized to accept salmon and halibut bycatch for hunger relief. This organization continues extensive efforts to provide fish to communities across Alaska. The Council appreciates ongoing work by the industry and the donation program.
Staff contact is Diana Stram.