Enviornmental Assestment for the Issuance of an Exempted Fishing Permit for Testing Integrated Weight Groundline as Seabird Avoidance Technique in the Hook-and-line Pacific Cod Fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands
This document is an Environmental Assessment (EA) of the potential impacts of issuing an exempted fishing permit (EFP) to allow for the testing of integrated weight groundline as a seabird avoidance measure in the hook-and-line Pacific cod fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. The purpose of the EFP is to provide exemptions from seabird avoidance regulations and separate allocations of groundfish species and PSC limits during the experiment. The project is a continuation of experiments conducted by the University of Washington Sea Grant Program and is intended to provide a means to improve seabird avoidance measures in the BSAI longline fisheries. The analysis found no significant impacts on the human environment for this action.
The North Pacific Longline Association (NPLA) has applied for an Exempted Fishing Permit to conduct tests of an integrated weight groundline (IWG) as a seabird avoidance measure in the longline fisheries. This work would continue experiments conducted by the University of Washington Sea Grant Program. In 2002, four weightings of IWG were compared to a control with weighted line and no seabird deterrents in the sablefish fishery in the Aleutian Islands and the Pacific cod fishery in the Gulf of Alaska. Preliminary results suggested that 50g/meter line was the optimal IWG for operating in auto-bait longline systems and preventing interaction with seabirds.
This EFP would continue the Washington Sea Grant Program work by comparing the catch rates of all taxa, the abundance and behaviour of seabirds, and the sink rate of groundlines among three mitigation treatments.
The project would begin on July 15, 2005 with a separate allocation to cover harvests by the two hookand-line catcher/processors conducting the experiments, until the opening date of the BSAI hook-and-line Pacific cod fishery on August 15, 2005, at which time the vessels would operate under the 2005 TAC specifications. The experiments would continue until the close of the fishery.
The EFP is necessary to allow the applicant to develop and test hook-and-line gear with improved effectiveness at seabird avoidance with certain exemptions from gear requirements, prohibited species catch (PSC) limits, fish retention restrictions and requirements, and improved retention/improved utilization (IR/IU) requirements. The alternatives are limited to the status quo (Alternative 1) and the issuance of the EFP (Alternative 2). Alternative 2 would provide an EFP with exemptions from: (1) use of paired streamer lines during the control sets, (2) maximum retainable amounts of incidentally taken species, as specified at § 679.20(e), during the period July 15 to August 15, (3) and IR/IU requirements as specified at § 679.27. The total amount of groundfish allowed to be harvested is 3,508 mt, including a 2,612 mt limit on Pacific cod. Halibut mortality is limited to 34.4 mt. Tanner crab incidental catch is limited to 7,200 crab.
The environmental effects of Alternative 2 are limited to seabirds, groundfish, prohibited species, and marine mammals. The effects were determined to be insignificant.