The fishery is driven by the numbers, and there will be more highs than lows in the 2022 catch for Alaskan fishermen based on the pounds set by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
The council is a federal advisory committee with the Herculean task of managing six Fisheries Management Plans (FMPs) covering over 140 species in 47 stocks and stock complexes, including setting annual bycatch limits. Their jurisdiction includes waters from 3 to 200 miles offshore where more than 60% of Alaska’s fish catch by volume is taken.
A 0.78 share of the value of these fisheries goes to non-residents, almost all of them from Washington state.
Seattle is home to nearly 300 fishing boats, and all but 74 live in Alaska.
Let’s come back to the figures of some emblematic species:
For Pacific cod in the Bering Sea / Aleutian Islands, next year’s catch has been increased by 20% to just over 330.5 million pounds.
Cod catches in the Gulf of Alaska increased to 61.5 million pounds, a 61% increase from 2021.
In state-run Gulf waters (up to 3 miles), cod numbers are based on the federal tally, which translates to Â£ 22.4million for next year, also an increase by 61%.
The so-called “head-and-belly” fleet of 19 Seattle-based bottom trawlers also made headlines for their annual catch / spears of over 4 million pounds of halibut bycatch (which tops the list). all other users). The large boats, including seven belonging to indigenous groups in western Alaska, target plaice, cod, perch and Atka mackerel. All but one have been increased by 20% or more. Their biggest catch, yellowfin, increased 25% to 550 million pounds.
In contrast, the world’s largest food fishery – Bering Sea pollock – will be reduced by 19% next year to 2.4 billion pounds.
Pollock catches for 2022 are also down in the Gulf to 219 million pounds, down nearly 12%.
In total, Alaska’s state / federal fisheries produce two-thirds of the US seafood harvest, and Alaska is home to nine of the top 20 US fishing ports by value. If it were a country, Alaska would rank eighth in the world for wild crops.
Catches for 2022 must be approved by the US Department of Commerce, which almost always endorses NPFMC recommendations.
Fishermen improve science – Over 100 Alaskan fishermen have signed up for a Skipper Science program that allows them to share what they know and see on the water. The pilot program started in June and uses a free phone application to record observations in real time.
âBasically it has worked and fishermen are very well equipped to be a lot of the science and research going on so that we can better understand and manage our fisheries,â said Lindsey Bloom, director of SalmonState’s Salmon Habitat Information. Program (SHIP), which has partnered with the tribal government of St. Paul’s Island to carry out the âCitizen Scientistâ project.
The app is an offshoot of a network of indigenous sentries created almost 20 years ago on Saint Paul Island in the Pribilofs to monitor the wildlife and environmental conditions of the Bering Sea.
âThere is a large body of in-depth knowledge that fishermen have from their experiences on the water, whether Aboriginal or not, which they use for decision making and risk assessment. And we have vastly underused this knowledge for years and years, especially here in the North Pacific, âsaid Lauren Divine, Director of Ecosystem Conservation for the St. Paul Tribal Government at the launch of the Skipper Program. Science.
A report of the findings showed that nearly 1,700 anglers also shared their views on how climate change is affecting Alaska’s waters and habitats. Sixty-one percent said they were very or somewhat concerned about the impacts on the fisheries.
“There is not a single fisherman on the water who has not experienced abrupt changes in conditions as a result of climate change,” Bloom said. âWe’ve heard over and over again that, in terms of how people feel, these are the threats to their businesses and their bottom line – climate is in the top two or three. Nineteen diverse members of industry, processors and fishing groups sponsored the science project and helped spread the word, and Bloom said he has the support of fisheries managers.
âAbsolutely. We have been strongly encouraged and supported by the staff at NOAA and they are pretty excited about it, and hopefully at the state level as well,â she said.
Bloom is hopeful that fishermen could eventually be paid to collect and provide data.
âI think there are incredible efficiencies to be gained. When you have all these little boats on the water day in and day out, why not use them to measure and report on what’s going on, âshe said.
Divine added that local knowledge and experiences improve the science provided by drones, satellites, ships and other high-tech devices.
âThe contribution of fishermen is lost in the process and they do not have the clout like big companies to influence decision making,â she said. âIt’s a real practical way to bring together the best scientific data, using local and traditional knowledge that provides context for all these numbers and data and tells a story to advocate for responsible and sustainable fisheries management policies. “
Fish the Skipper Science report and sign up for next year at skipperscience.org.
Lights save the salmon – Low cost LED lights can help chinook salmon escape trawls. A 2020 study by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center showed that LEDs are very effective in directing chinook salmon to the exhaust windows of trawls targeting Pacific hake, the most large west coast groundfish fishery. which typically produces over 500 million pounds per year. The study showed that chinook salmon are much more likely to exit the nets where the lights are placed – 86 percent of the escaped salmon used the LED-framed openings without losing the targeted catch. “Our data and video observations indicate that at deeper and darker depths where the trawls go, the LED light improves the salmon’s ability to perceive the trailing areas and the areas outside the nets,” said Mark Lomeli. , principal researcher at the PSMFC.
Lomeli added that the fires have also been shown to be effective in reducing the bycatch of eulachon (Pacific smelt) and juvenile rockfish and flatfish in the shrimp trawl fishery off Oregon. “We also believe that LEDs could be used in other fisheries – for example, the pelagic pollock trawl fishery in Alaska – to reduce bycatch of chinook salmon,” Lomeli added in a NOAA statement on the project. âA lot of fishermen are familiar with this technology and are using it if they think chinook bycatch will be a problem. It is easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and widely available. You can easily attach the lights to the net strap around the exhaust openings. With those research results in hand, the lights are on the shelf for them when they need them. We believe that these LEDs are handy fruits to aid in the recovery of this species and can also play an important role in the stability of this fishery. Lomeli said.
This video shows a Chinook salmon quickly escaping from a trawl while fishing for hake.