NOAA Fisheries has opened a comment period on a potential environmental impact statement concerning possible rationalization of Gulf of Alaska groundfish trawling. Rachel Baker is a fisheries management specialist with NOAA Fisheries in Juneau. She says this opening is an extra opportunity to speak about any potential change in Gulf trawl bycatch that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council could consider.
“In terms of the broad nature of the program they’re looking at and the potentially broad impacts of whatever they end up recommending, (it) may warrant an Environmental Impact Statement, which is a type of analysis that we do to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. So this notice of intent that NOAA Fisheries published essentially just kicks off what we call a scoping process for that Environmental Impact Statement. It’s really just a supplemental opportunity for the public to provide comments to the council as it continues to develop the Gulf Trawl Bycatch Management Program.”
Baker said the EIS stems from action the North Pacific Council took in October 2012 to look at the issue of Gulf bycatch, and rationalization is just one possible outcome. She says the comments collected through the end of August will be presented to the Council this fall.
“We will summarize those comments for the council and provide a report to them for them to consider as they continue to develop the program. And we anticipate that NOAA fisheries will have that report for the council and the public to review in October 2015 at the council meeting.”
That meeting will be in Anchorage.
Baker added that public comments aren’t limited to just the alternative solutions that are currently on the table.
“The notice of intent does discuss the alternatives currently on the table, that the council has identified, but I just want to make clear that the public comments are not limited to what’s on the table. We encourage all comments about other alternatives that the public may think are good approaches for the gulf trawl bycatch management program.”
She says that specific, constructive comments are better than simple expressions of feelings or opinions on bycatch, trawling or rationalization.
“You know it’s always helpful when people support or don’t support something, but knowing why people do or do not support something is very helpful as well.”