Chinook Salmon Bycatch Management in Alaska
Chinook salmon are accidentally caught in the federally managed pollock and non-pollock trawl fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and the Gulf of Alaska (GOA).
BSAI Management Measures
Salmon Bycatch Monitoring in the BS Pollock Fishery
To support salmon bycatch management in the Bering Sea pollock fishery, regulations require that salmon are retained until counted by an independent, scientifically trained observer. Every pollock catcher-processor carries two observers. Cameras are also required to ensure that all catch on catcher processors and motherships is monitored after it is transferred below deck. Each pollock catcher vessel carries one observer or an Electronic Monitoring (EM) system on every trip. There are also observers in every processing plant who monitor each catcher vessel pollock delivery and count every salmon.
The combination of full (100%) observer coverage, cameras, and EM enables a complete census of all salmon. Every salmon is counted. In addition, biological and genetic samples are collected from the salmon bycatch to understand the stock of origin. The Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Genetics Program works to determine where chinook and chum salmon caught as bycatch originate. These data are used by fishermen and managers to determine how best to reduce bycatch.
In 2016, Amendment 110 was implemented to improve the management of Chinook and chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery by creating a comprehensive salmon bycatch avoidance program. This action was necessary to minimize Chinook and chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery while maintaining the potential for the full harvest of the pollock total allowable catch within specified prohibited species catch (PSC) limits.
In 2011, NMFS implemented Amendment 91 to manage Chinook salmon bycatch in the BSAI pollock fishery. Amendment 91 combined a limit on the amount of incidentally caught Chinook salmon with incentive plan agreements and performance standards. The program was designed to minimize bycatch to the extent practicable in all years, and prevent bycatch from reaching the limit in most years, while providing the pollock fleet with the flexibility to harvest the total allowable catch.
GOA Management Measures
GOA Chinook Salmon PSC Action Postponed
In April 2017, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) initiated an analysis evaluating increasing the GOA catcher vessel Chinook salmon prohibited species catch (PSC) cap. The action could have either increased Chinook salmon PSC limits or added flexibility in the form of annual rollovers of unused PSC for trawl vessels targeting Pacific cod, rockfish, and flatfish in the Central and Western GOA. After reviewing alternatives in April 2018, the Council determined that modifying the limit was not appropriate at this time due to concerns about the status of Chinook salmon stocks that are known to occur as bycatch in the GOA non-pollock trawl fishery. The Council also noted the possibility that Federal actions relating to Chinook salmon removals could create an unintended interference with the decadal renegotiation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the United States and Canada, which were ongoing in April. The Council did not identify a future time at which this action should be revisited, but signaled its intent to monitor both the status of Chinook salmon stocks and the performance of the PSC-limited GOA trawl catcher vessel sector.
In 2016, Amendment 103 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA FMP) provided NMFS Inseason Management with the authority to reapportion salmon PSC limits among trawl sectors in the GOA within a fishing year. The purpose is to reduce the chances of closing a fishery due to a sector reaching its limit while ensuring that the total catch of Chinook salmon PSC in the Central and Western GOA trawl fisheries does not exceed the overall FMP limit of 32,500.
GOA Trawl Emergency Rule
On May 3, 2015, all groundfish fisheries for the Non-Rockfish Program catcher vessel sector were closed for the remainder of 2015, because the sector unexpectedly reached its annual Chinook salmon PSC limit for the Western and Central GOA of 2,700 Chinook salmon. A prolonged closure would have been detrimental to the community of Kodiak, harvesters, and processors. In June 2015, the Council therefore recommended and NOAA Fisheries implemented an emergency rule to provide an additional 1,600 Chinook salmon PSC allowance to the GOA groundfish trawl fisheries for the Non-Rockfish Program catcher vessel sector. Providing the additional limit of 1,600 Chinook salmon PSC restored a substantial portion of the forgone groundfish harvest and associated revenue made unavailable by the closure, by allowing the sector to harvest its recent average amount of groundfish for the remainder of 2015, while keeping the total Chinook salmon PSC at or below 32,500, well below the annual 40,000 threshold. The emergency rule was published in the Federal Register on August 10, 2015 (80 FR 47864), and became effective on publication. The effectiveness period ended on December 31, 2015. Between August 10, and December 31, 2015, only 12 additional Chinook salmon PSC of the 1,600 allowed were caught by the Non-Rockfish Program catcher vessel sector.
Early 2015, Amendment 97 established annual Chinook salmon PSC limits for all groundfish trawl fisheries except for pollock in the Western and Central Gulf of Alaska (GOA). It also established incentives for reducing Chinook salmon PSC for the trawl C/P and Non-Rockfish Program CV sectors, and established seasonal Chinook salmon PSC limits for the trawl C/P sector.
In 2012, Amendment 93 was implemented in the GOA to limit the amount of Chinook salmon caught in the pollock fishery. Amendment 93 establishes separate PSC limits in the Central and Western GOA for Chinook salmon, which would cause NMFS to close the directed pollock fishery in the Central or Western regulatory areas of the GOA, if the applicable limit is reached. This action also requires retention of salmon by all vessels in the Central and Western GOA pollock fisheries until the catch is delivered to a processing facility where an observer is provided the opportunity to count the number of salmon and to collect scientific data or biological samples from the salmon.
AFA and CDQ Pollock Fisheries Resources
- Applications and Reporting Forms
- Electronic Monitoring
- Salmon Bycatch Reports (BSAI and GOA)
- Chinook Incidental Catch Reports in Groundfish Fisheries (GOA and BSAI)
Regulations and Management Actions
- Federal Register Rules and Notices
- Salmon Bycatch Fishery Management Plan Amendments
- BSAI Groundfish Fishery Management Plan
- GOA Groundfish Fishery Management Plan
- Bering Sea Chinook Salmon Bycatch Management Environmental Impact Statement and other analyses
Bering Sea Pollock Fishery Incentive Plan Agreements
On October 1, 2010, NOAA Fisheries received three proposed chinook salmon bycatch reduction incentive plan agreements. On November 5, 2010, all three incentive plan agreements were approved. On July 11, 2016, Amendment 110 was implemented to improve the management of Chinook and chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. All three IPAs were amended to meet the new IPA requirements. These amendments were approved prior to the start of the 2017 BSAI pollock fishery.
- Catcher/Processor Chinook Salmon Bycatch Reduction Incentive Plan and Agreement (PDF)
- Mothership Salmon Savings Incentive Plan Agreement (PDF)
- Inshore Chinook Salmon Savings Incentive Plan Agreement (PDF)
- Non-chinook Salmon Bycatch Management
- Bycatch in Alaska
- Salmon Fisheries Management
- North Pacific Fishery Management Council - Salmon Bycatch Information
- Exempted Fishing Permits
- Tribal Consultations
- American Fisheries Act (AFA) Pollock Fisheries Management
- Community Development Quota
- Federal Fisheries in Alaska