The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has taken action designed to conserve Tanner crab stocks by adding restrictions to trawl fishermen and extending the deck observer requirement on smaller boats. The issue has been particularly divisive in Kodiak with crabbers and trawlers divided over whether trawling is killing crabs from bycatch.
Diana Evans is a staff analyst with the Fishery Council.
— (crab 1 :29 "The council has … results of that would be.")
Trawlers had testified at a city council public hearing that flatfish generates $4.5 million annually for the local fleet and that the closures would affect prime fishing grounds. But crabbers struck back saying trawling was hurting crab stocks and strongly backed heightened restrictions on trawling.
By a 9-2 vote the Fishery Council approved what’s designed to be a compromise: namely less drastic closures as originally proposed but with added requirements for onboard observers.
The action closes one area to trawling though the pollock fleet would be exempt. But in the other areas it extended requirements for onboard observers, the cost of which would be borne by fishermen even on boats less than 60 feet which had been exempt.
— (crab 2 :14 "The other series … for the pot fleet.")
The Fishery Council also directed its staff to investigate future requirements on the trawl fleet in the Gulf of Alaska to lift their gear off the bottom to prevent harming the crab.
— (crab 3 :32 "It’s similar to an action … do in the future.")
In a separate action the Fishery Council also extended the observer program which could eventually supersede the new observer requirements.
Evans said deck observers are meant to increase the understanding of bycatch issues and result in informed management decisions.