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Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

NPFMC Takes Action to Limit Chinook Salmon Bycatch in the Bering Sea Pollock Fishery

At its April meeting, the NPFMC passed Amendment 91 to the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Fisheries Management Plan, addressing the bycatch of Chinook salmon. AFSC scientists contributed to the development of alternatives considered and the analysis performed for the environmental impact statement reviewed for the amendment.

The action establishes an upper limit (hard cap) of 60,000 Chinook salmon caught per year for the Bering Sea pollock fishery, with the additional requirement that Chinook bycatch be below 47,591 in all but 2 years in any 7-year period.

The bycatch quota will be allocated to sectors of the fleet proportional to both their pollock allocation and historic bycatch. The bycatch quota will then be allocated by cooperatives to individual vessels and will be transferable across the fleet and thus improve economic efficiency. The bycatch limits are scheduled to become effective in 2011.

The amendment will require 100% observer coverage for all vessels in the pollock fishery, which will affect vessels in the 60-125 ft length category, which are currently required to have observers for 30% of their fishing days.

Limiting total Chinook salmon bycatch is expected to reduce the pollock fishery's impact on the number of Chinook returning to rivers. However, in periods of low salmon abundance a hard cap may be less effective since reaching the limit would be unlikely, although conserving bycatch may be most important at this time. For this reason, the Council explicitly required that vessel-level incentives to avoid bycatch be in place at all levels of abundance (the absence of such incentives will lead to a more restrictive hard cap).

Incentive plans were developed by industry and refined with input from the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee and AFSC economists. These plans will require further changes because the Council's approved motion includes a performance standard for vessels participating in an incentive plan agreement (IPA). IPA participants will be required to demonstrate to NMFS that their incentive plan will be compatible with the Council's motion, but the form of these plans and subsequent accountability measures are presently uncertain.

By Alan Haynie and Jim Ianelli

Chinook Salmon Bycatch Economic Data Collection Evaluation

After the NPFMC took action in April to limit Chinook salmon bycatch by the pollock fishery, ESSR Program economists wrote a discussion paper on options for expanded economic data collection to better evaluate the impacts of the NPFMC's April action.

The discussion paper presents a range of expanded data collection options and discusses how expanded data collection would enable more thorough analysis of how the Council's April action impacts the pollock fishery and reduces Chinook salmon bycatch. The paper was presented to the Council's socioeconomic data collection committee and at the June Council meeting.

At the June meeting, the NPFMC selected a group of options for preliminary analysis, which will be completed prior to its October meeting. Key elements of data collection under consideration are 1) information on salmon and pollock quota transactions, 2) improved roe quality and quantity data, 3) vessel travel cost information, and 4) daily operations costs.

If collected, these data will be utilized to evaluate how difficult it is for the pollock fishery to comply with the hard cap and to assess the effectiveness of additional bycatch reduction incentive plans that may be developed by industry.

ESSR economists currently are developing draft surveys for data collection and to help evaluate the alternatives under consideration by the Council. Preliminary analysis will be completed for the October Council meeting and final action is expected by December 2009 to enable the data collection to be in place by 2011, when new Chinook salmon bycatch regulations will go in place for the pollock fishery.

By Alan Haynie

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