We urge the implementation of management measures to reduce Bering Sea salmon bycatch

by the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

In this time of climate change, warming waters, and changing marine food webs, it seems more important than ever that we do all we can to protect declining salmon stocks––and we can use our management tools to control marine salmon bycatch.

The Salmon Bycatch Committee met on January 25 to discuss research and recommendations for Chinook and chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea. These recommendations included those from the Alaska Bycatch Review Task Force, which called for the implementation of a science-based cap on chum salmon in the pollock fishery.

KRITFC Executive Director Kevin Whitworth and Chair Mike Williams Sr. (representing Akiak Native Community), along with other Tribal leaders and industry representatives on the Committee, were tasked with developing rationales and ideas for chum salmon bycatch avoidance measures to bring to their next meeting on March 20–21.

The agenda for this next Committee meeting includes overviews of these Purpose & Need Statements and Alternatives, as well as public testimony. We encourage you to join the meeting and speak up for our salmon––including urging the Committee to look at improving Chinook salmon bycatch avoidance, too:

Join in-person: UAA Gorsuch Commons Room 107, 3700 Sharon Gagnon Lane, Anchorage

Join via Zoom: By computer (link) or dial +1-253-215-8782. Meeting ID: 829 9542 9776. Passcode: NPFMC.

If you would like to testify, you will need to sign up ahead of time online or by calling 907-271-2809. Don’t want to speak? You can submit written comments online by 5:00pm this Friday, March 17.

Salmon bycatch is also scheduled for the next North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting (April 3-11), held in Anchorage and via Zoom teleconference. The Advisory Panel is scheduled to discuss this April 5–6, and the Council on April 7–9. You can give input by submitting a written comment online, testifying in-person at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel, or testifying via Zoom. More information to come, especially based on the outcomes of the Salmon Bycatch Committee.

And for an update on salmon bycatch numbers: As of March 9, directed fisheries in the Bering Sea (including the pollock fishery and CDQ vessels) have harvested 10,122 Chinook salmon—already much higher than 2022 bycatch levels—and 764 chum salmon.

We will be monitoring these numbers and continuing to push for bycatch reductions through every avenue we can.

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