The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly and Kodiak City Council recently put their final stamp on a letter which would provide community input on Gulf of Alaska trawl bycatch management to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
Each Kodiak governing body held a meeting Tuesday to review and approve that letter. This last step comes after months of discussion from the Kodiak Fisheries Work Group and right before the North Pacific Fishery Management Council convenes for its summer meeting, which this year will be in Kodiak.
The letter from the assembly and council includes 10 community goals for the bycatch management program. At the City Council meeting, Councilman John Whiddon, who sits on the Fisheries Work Group, said the the letter springs from community concerns about alternatives the Fishery Management Council has proposed.
At the beginning of the City Council meeting, Whiddon went over the alternatives for the benefit of the public and city councilmembers. The Fishery Management Council is currently considering three different options. Whiddon started with alternative two, which he says is similar to halibut and crab individual fishing quotas.
“Harvesters who qualify would be awarded shares of catch based on their historical participation, and that’s the preferred alternative that the harvest industry and the national seafood industry, that’s their preferred alternative… The objections from other folks are that in assigning quota to the harvesters, just like your halibut IFQs, is you would be taking what is currently a public resource and putting it into private ownership.”
Whiddon explained the next alternative, alternative three, would allocate the bycatch species among catcher boats. They could take in as much of the target species as they like – under the fishery’s total allowable catch and management plan, – but there would be a limit on the bycatch, which would be determined by historical participation.
He also said some smaller fishermen are concerned that alternative three would enable bigger, more efficient boats to beat them out to sea and monopolize the resource.
The last alternative – alternative four – would create a community fishery association. In this situation, the group would hold a percentage of the quota that it could lease out to skippers and crews. Hypothetically, that could protect the ability to get new participants in case alternative three makes the fishery too expensive to enter. The association could also be put in place alongside the other alternatives.
Whiddon continued onto the letter and went over the issues it covers. The letter says that Kodiak aims for community stability and protection, especially considering that Kodiak’s economy is reliant on fisheries. One of the thoughts the letter expresses is a need to open the industry up to new fishermen, processors, and anyone else who would like to work within the industry. It proposes additional analysis of a community trust which could hold quota in order to facilitate that.
It also words its support of “regional and/or port delivery requirements based on historical landings,” as “one of the key provisions to maintain or increase target fishery landings and revenues.”
After reviewing the letter and the alternatives on the table, the city council approved it in its entirety.
Meanwhile, the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly meeting took place at the same time and for half the length of time as the Kodiak City Council meeting.
Assemblywoman Rebecca Skinner, who sits on the Fisheries Work Group, referred to the contentiousness of the many meetings surrounding the letter.
“I think it’s safe to say that nobody was completely happy with this letter, but nobody was completely offended by the letter either, which is a pretty good result considering we have a pretty diverse stakeholder group here in Kodiak, and I think just given the amount of work and discussion that went into this, I don’t know that I would recommend really substantive changes.”
Assembly members not caught up on Fisheries Work Group meetings asked clarifying questions, and ultimately approved the letter 6 – 0.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will discuss bycatch management and may refine the alternatives at its upcoming meeting, which will take place in Kodiak between Monday, June 6 and Tuesday, June 14.