The Council took final action on an analysis evaluating the potential impacts of removing restrictions to processing and sale of squids and sculpins as part of the Ecosystem Component (EC) category of the BSAI and GOA Fishery Management Plans. The Council selected the action alternative, Alternative 2, as their Preferred Alternative.
Squids were added to the EC category of the BSAI and GOA FMPs in 2018, and sculpins were added to the EC category in 2020. Current regulations prohibit the processing and sale of any EC species in Alaska unless they are processed as fishmeal. When squids were added to the EC category, the Council’s stated intention was that processing of squid into bait would continue. However, the final rule for the 2020 action revised regulations to limit processing of squids into fishmeal only. At this meeting, the Council recommended aligning the allowable use of squids with past practice, and to make regulations for the allowable use of sculpins consistent with squids.
Both squids and sculpins are caught incidentally to other targeted groundfish fisheries. Sculpin catch has always been low in the BSAI and GOA, and no market for sculpin products currently exists. Squid catch has been variable in the BSAI and GOA. Historically, squids have been sold as whole bait or whole fish/food fish. Although squid catch in 2019 was remarkably higher than in earlier years, analysis suggests that factors other than the reclassification of squids into the EC category likely contributed to the overall catch. Such factors could include the overall abundance of squids, patchy distribution of squids or the effects of the pollock fleet avoiding Chinook salmon and sablefish.
Staff contact is Steve MacLean.