The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is meeting in Sitka this week and the major decision before them is a proposed reduction in the allowable halibut bycatch in the Amendment 80 factory trawler fishery in the Bering Sea. The proposal seeks to cut the current cap by as much as half, but other alternatives are before the board.
But when the Council does make its final decision, two of its members from Alaska will not be allowed to vote.
NOAA General Counsel for Alaska, Lauren Smoker, found that Alaska members David Long and Simon Kinneen had a financial conflict of interest in the outcome of the vote and ruled that they must be recused from the halibut bycatch vote.
The decision was appealed, but the ruling was upheld by NOAA’s Deputy General Counsel Mary Beth Ward in Washington D.C.
Long works as a captain for Glacier Fish Company, but mostly targets pollock, while Kinneen works for the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, which is one of six Bering Sea CDQ groups, that collectively receive 10 percent of the Bering Sea harvest quota. And even though the decision before the Council is for the flatfish catcher-processors, Ward agreed that the rule could be applied to more fisheries, and only certain ones are specifically excluded.
In her letter, Ward said Long and Kinneen may participate in the halibut bycatch deliberations and may inform the remaining Council members how they WOULD have voted if given the chance.
The rule leaves Alaska with four votes on the matter, Washington with three and Oregon with one. The National Marine Fisheries Service Alaska Region will be represented by Assistant Administrator Glenn Martin, as region chief Jim Balsiger must be recused as well, because his wife lobbies for the St. Paul CDQ group.