As requested by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, NOAA Fisheries is implementing an emergency rule to provide an additional 1,600 Chinook salmon prohibited species catch (PSC) allowance to the Gulf of Alaska groundfish trawl fisheries for the Non-Rockfish Program catcher vessel Sector.
On May 3, 2015, all groundfish fisheries for the sector were closed for the remainder of 2015, when the sector unexpectedly reached its annual Chinook salmon PSC limit for the Western and Central Gulf of Alaska of 2,700 Chinook salmon.
NOAA Fisheries has determined that an emergency exists because the early closure of the Non-Rockfish Program CV Sector’s groundfish fisheries is causing significant economic detriment to harvesters, processors and the community of Kodiak.
Providing an additional limit of 1,600 Chinook salmon PSC is likely to restore a substantial portion of the forgone groundfish harvest and associated revenue made unavailable by the closure. It will allow the sector to harvest its recent average amount of groundfish for the remainder of 2015, while keeping the total Chinook salmon PSC well below the annual threshold for all Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries.
At its June 2015 meeting, the Council voted 10 to 1 to request that NOAA Fisheries promulgate an emergency regulation to allocate 1,600 Chinook salmon for the remainder of 2015, to the prohibited species catch (PSC) limit established for the non-pollock, Non-Rockfish Program catcher vessel Sector (Non-Rockfish Program CV Sector).
A previous PSC management action, Amendment 93 to the FMP was approved in June 2011 to limit Chinook salmon PSC to 25,000 Chinook salmon in the Western and Central GOA pollock trawl fisheries.
Because the Western and Central GOA non-pollock trawl fisheries were without a Chinook salmon PSC limit prior to 2014, the Council recommended that Chinook salmon PSC limits be extended to these fisheries under Amendment 97 to the FMP.
Amendment 97 to the FMP limits Chinook salmon PSC to a total of 7,500 Chinook salmon for the Western and Central GOA non-pollock trawl fisheries – 2,700 for the Non-Rockfish Program CV Sector, 3,600 for the Catcher/processor Sector, and 1,200 for the Rockfish Program CV Sector.
New data has shown that previous estimates of PSC for this sector were not representative of recent PSC use.
The additional allocation of 1,600 Chinook salmon would be consistent with the overall goals of Chinook salmon PSC management in the GOA trawl fisheries and would not substantially increase Chinook salmon PSC use relative to established limits.
Based on current and anticipated incidental catch of Chinook salmon in the GOA trawl fisheries, NMFS anticipates that total Chinook salmon PSC by GOA trawl vessels is unlikely to exceed 32,500 Chinook salmon, well below the annual threshold of 40,000.
This temporary rule will mitigate the costs of the closure to participants in the fishery while the Council develops an FMP amendment to permanently address this situation.
This emergency rule is effective upon publication (Monday, August 10, 2015) in the Federal Register, until December 31, 2015, or until the new PSC limit of 1,600 Chinook salmon is reached by the Non-Rockfish Program CV Sector.