The Council reviewed a discussion paper that considered modifying the requirement to retain sablefish in the Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) longline and pot fisheries. The Council’s request for the discussion paper was responsive to public testimony in April 2018 that the IFQ fishery was experiencing an increase in catch of small sablefish due to an unprecedently large 2014 year class. Small size fish are of lesser value to harvesters and processors, and stakeholders had expressed interest in discarding small fish for both economic and conservation purposes. Encounters with small sablefish have increased throughout Alaska waters, but the most dramatic shift occurred in the Western GOA and the BSAI. The discussion paper identified information needed to develop a discard mortality rate (DMR) for IFQ-caught sablefish as well as changes to observer sampling protocols that would be required. The paper also provided information on the relationship between value-per-pound and market category, noting that while price varies by year, it is stable across FMP subareas within each year.
At the meeting, the Council determined that, rather than embarking on an analysis of potential management alternatives, they would like further information in a second discussion paper. Specifically, the Council requested that the paper evaluate:
- A process for establishing species-specific and gear-specific DMRs for sablefish that outlines the work necessary to maintain the relevance of that DMR over time.
- An assessment of the reliability of applying temporary proxy DMRs from other fisheries to the sablefish IFQ longline and pot fisheries and the implications of increased monitoring necessary to establish observer-based DMRs.
- The possibility of allowing discards during years of high abundance versus years of lower abundance and how to establish a threshold between high and low abundance years.
- The possibility of increased whale depredation if discarding is allowed.
- An exploration of gear modifications and methods of fishing that could aid in avoiding small sablefish.
- The implications of small sablefish discards increasing the probability of approaching the overall TAC or exceeding the ABC.
- A discussion about the concerns of fishing down the existing spawning stock.
- Potential for and implications of high-grading under size-based management
- Enforcement options
Staff contact is Jim Armstrong.