City Council Drafts Letter to Inform Environmental Impact Statement for Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The Kodiak City Council approved a letter yesterday that may affect the future of bycatch management in the Kodiak Archipelago.

The city council held a special meeting last night in order to sign-off on the final draft of the letter, which it will send to the National Marine Fisheries Service in order to provide input on the Environmental Impact Statement for Gulf of Alaska trawl bycatch management.

City Councilman John Whiddon is also the co-chair of the Fisheries Work Group and says Gulf trawl bycatch measures have been a topic of conversation at fisheries meetings since 2012, and the letter says as much.

“We’ve made the case that we view, and we stand by this statement, that the city – the borough – so, the Kodiak community, is a vital third leg of the stalk,” says Whiddon. “The harvesters and the processors, each comprise the other two legs. And we’re an equally important third leg of the stalk, so that infrastructure – I believe we have an equal stake in the outcome. So we wanted to reiterate that.”

He says the letter identified 10 community goals to ensure a healthy working waterfront. He says proper management is vital and the recent closure of a Kodiak fishery in May demonstrates that.

“There were too many Chinook taken. We were able to go to Sitka in June and actually present our case to the Alaska Marine Fisheries Service – to the council, rather. And I think collectively as a community, the fishing folks, community folks, and processors, we were able to convince them that we needed additional Chinook,” says Whiddon. “So, the outcome of not having a management system is really obvious is that we were shut down.”

Whiddon says until there’s a system in place that allows people to more effectively manage bycatch, the same is likely to happen again. He says he attended a community forum where those present identified one of the goals listed in the letter.

“Pretty much everybody in the room, across the entire spectrum, agreed in order to correctly manage ground fish, there needs to be some form of cooperative,” he says. “There’s no real agreement on what that cooperative would look like, who would own shares, but we restate the fact that there should be a cooperative form of management.”
Whiddon says they address consolidation in the document.

“We are concerned about the overconsolidation both on the harvesting side and the processing side, because if there’s overconsolidation on the harvesting side, it could potentially be less crew, less boats and that translates to less shore side support services, principally less taxes generated.”

He says the letter also mentions regionalization and participation criteria.

“That’s a big, big stumbling block for many folks. How do you define who participates? Whether based on – do the folks actually have to be actually on deck, is it based on history, do they get quota, do they get to keep the quota? All those types of things is really, really critical. What we’re trying to avoid is people collecting rent checks from somewhere out of state.”

Whiddon says the deadline for the letter is Friday and that the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly will view the draft tonight. He says he hopes the assembly will approve it, so that the council and assembly can send the letter jointly.

You can find a link to the entire agenda including the letter here.

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