Asks Council to Adopt SSC Decision to Reduce
Pollock Catch during Cyclic Downturn
December 09, 2008
The Juneau-based Marine Conservation Alliance (MCA), a coalition of harvesters, processors and communities involved in the Alaska Groundfish and crab fisheries, also announced today that the coalition has urged the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to adopt the recommendation of its scientific advisors in setting the total allowable catch of Bering Sea pollock in 2009.
"MCA supports the Council's long tradition of following the recommendations of its scientists, which is why we have a 30-year record of conserving fish stocks," said MCA executive director David Benton. "It's unfortunate that some interest groups can't accept the role of science in fishery management but we're confident the Council will act responsibly."
The final decision on the total allowable catch level for 2009 will be made by the Council during its meeting this week in Anchorage. In its history, the Council has never exceeded catch limits recommended by its scientists. The SSC's recommendation was based on stock surveys that showed a decline in the available pollock biomass but also found indications that the stock may soon be rebuilding.
"We've known this downturn was coming because a large age class of fish that dominated the population was getting older but a large, younger age class was also reported that will recruit into the fishery in the next few years," Benton said. "With it, scientists are projecting that pollock biomass may increase by as much as 50 percent in 2010."
Bering Sea pollock is one of the world's largest fisheries and accounts for a third of all fish harvested in the U.S. Fluctuations in the allowable catch limit are not unusual. The pollock catch was held below 1 million tons from 1977 to 1983. More recently, the catch limit dropped to 980,000 tons in 1999 after which the stocks rebounded and produced record catches of almost 1.5 million tons from 2002 to 2006.
"Bering Sea pollock is one of the world's most abundant and dynamic fishery resources," Benton said. "Despite the current trend, the pollock resource is still healthy and it will remain so as long as we continue to follow our scientists' recommendations. That approach is why Alaska is respected around the globe as a model of fishery management."
Based in Juneau, the Marine Conservation Alliance is a coalition of seafood processors, fishermen, coastal communities and support industries involved in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska groundfish and crab fisheries. The MCA promotes science-based conservation measures to ensure sustainable fisheries in Alaska.
In November, new scientific information was also released by NOAA Fisheries showing a decline in the walleye pollock biomass that prompted the agency in recommending a cut to the pollock catch for 2009 in the eastern Bering Sea.
"Although the pollock biomass was well above average in the 1990s, our surveys show a substantial decline in recent years," said Doug DeMaster, science and research director for NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center. "The stock has been closely monitored and management decisions have historically followed sound conservation principles. We anticipate lower catch limits for 2009."
A 2008 bottom trawl survey of pollock numbers was in line with last year's analysis, but another survey that combined information from acoustic measurements of pollock biomass and midwater trawl results showed lower abundance than expected. These results have prompted NOAA scientists to recommend to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council a sustainable catch of 815,000 metric tons for 2009, an 18.5 percent reduction from 2008. The new scientific information on pollock comes from major scientific surveys this season, plus catch data and oceanographic information.
NOAA scientists recently presented their draft pollock stock assessment to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council's Groundfish Plan Team, which reviewed the assessment and complied the report for the council. The council's scientific and statistical committee will recommend an acceptable biological catch level a sustainable catch level and the advisory panel will recommend a total allowable catch, which is historically lower because it takes into account other factors. After listening to committee recommendations and public input, the council will recommend a total allowable catch for pollock for 2009. The final decision on the total allowable catch level for 2009 will be made by the Council during its meeting this week in Anchorage.
In its history, the Council
has never exceeded catch limits recommended by its scientists.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council's Scientific and
Statistical Committee's (SSC) recommendation was based on stock
surveys that showed a decline in the available pollock biomass
but also found indications that the stock may soon be rebuilding.
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