EA/RIR/FRFA for Amendment 41 - Management of Tanner Crab (C. bairds) Bycatch Limits in Bering Sea Groundfish Trawl Fisheries - an Amendment to the Fishery Management Plan for the Groundfish Fishery of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Area
Analysis of a fishery management plan amendment to address Tanner crab bycatch in the Bering Sea / Aleutian Islands area.
Bering Sea crab stocks are currently at relatively tow levels based on recent NOAA Fisheries bottom trawl surveys. Crab fisheries have been impacted by these low stock sizes, such that no Bristol Bay red king crab fishery occurred in 1994 or 1995. Harvests of Tanner and snow crabs have been much reduced. An Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review, which examined impacts of management measures proposed under both Amendment 37 and Amendment 41, was released on May 10, 1996 (NPFMC, 5/10196). In June 1996, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (Council) took final action on Amendment 37, providing several measures to protect the red king crab stock from possible impacts due to groundfish fisheries. At its September 1996 meeting, the Council identified and adopted Alternative 3 Option C as its preferred alternative for bycatch limits of Tanner crab taken incidentally in trawl fisheries. This measure is proposed as Amendment 41 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Groundfish Fishery of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands area.
Bycatch limits for Tanner crab that were established for Bering Sea trawl fisheries may be too high given the current status of the crab stock. Bycatch may impact crab rebuilding and future crab harvests by pot fisheries. Crab bycatch limits were established for trawl fisheries beginning in 1986. Bycatch limits (termed Prohibited Species Catch limits, or PSC) for crab are apportioned into limitation zones. These are allocated among groundfish trawl fisheries. Status quo Tanner crab PSC limits are l,000,000 crab in Zone l and 3,000,000 crab in Zone 2. Three main alternative PSC limits were examined, as well as additional options for stairstep PSC limits for Tanner crab. The alternatives to the status quo included a reduced bycatch limit for crab and a crab PSC limit that fluctuates with crab abundance.