Revised Final Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives for the Pollock Fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska with Supporting Documentation
Reasonable and prudent alternatives for the BSAI and GOA pollock fisheries
When NOAA Fisheries issues a “jeopardy” biological opinion, the Endangered Species Act requires NOAA Fisheries to provide reasonable and prudent alternatives (RPAs) that identify ways to modify proposed actions to avoid the likelihood of jeopardizing listed species and adversely modifying critical habitat. NOAA Fisheries used the RPAs of its December 3, 1998, Biological Opinion, to developed a framework that avoided the likelihood of jeopardizing Steller sea lions or adversely modifying their critical habitat while providing the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) flexibility to develop specific management measures for the fisheries based on current assessments of the pollock stock and the fishing fleet.
The framework established by the RPAs was built on three principles following directly from the analyses in the Opinion and its conclusions. Those analyses indicated that while the overall removals of pollock from the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska were considered safe for the pollock stocks, concentration of the fisheries over time and space increased the potential for localized depletion of prey relative to the needs of sea lions; i.e., competition. The principles, then, were established to 1) preclude fisheries competition for prey resources around rookeries and major haulouts (Principle 1), 2) disperse the fisheries temporally to minimize the likelihood of locally-depleting the pollock resource (Principle 2), and 3) disperse the fisheries spatially to further minimize the likelihood of locally-depleting the pollock resource (Principle 3). The principles did not include a reduction in the catch quotas for these two fisheries, but rather dispersed them in time and space to avoid jeopardy and adverse modification.