Don’t make us do this! Cap bycatch at 32,500


Update: The deadline for comments was March 25 and our comments have been delivered to the NPFMC. Thank you all for your thoughts! We will let you know what the outcome of the meeting is.

Send your comments to NPFMC asking them to cap salmon bycatch before March 25!!

fishsand3Factory-owned trawlers fishing for pollock in the waters off Alaska’s coast cater to America and the world’s growing appetite for fast-food fish sandwiches, fish sticks and imitation crab (Krab) and lobster.

Sadly, tens of thousands of salmon are snared in the huge nets of pollock trawlers and don’t live to make their right of passage – a courageous trip against the pristine  river currents of Alaska, and some all the way to spawning grounds in Canada to reproduce and guarantee the survival of their species.

Rural communities in Alaska depend on a healthy salmon run each year. Subsistence fishermen fish throughout the summer, under strict regulations, and normally harvest enough salmon to preserve for the winter. The local commercial village fishermen also use their catch to pay for their families’ need for cash items like fuel, help support local businesses and pump cash into local economies that help others support their families.

Commercial pollock trawlers are intercepting and killing these same salmon upon which rural fishermen depend. Since 2002 the bycatch, salmon caught in pollock nets, has been as high as 121,000 – many of which should have been preserved and stored in our neighbor’s winter pantries.

Native Americans living in villages in rural Alaska depend on an abundance of salmon. This winter’s scarcity brought to the forefront just how important a healthy salmon fishery is.

salmonsafePlease take a few moments to let the North Pacific Fishery Management Council know the world is watching. Demand that they cap salmon bycatch at 32,500 so more Chinook salmon have a chance to swim upstream next summer.

It took a worldwide boycott to make tuna dolphin-safe. Self-regulation has not been working in the pollock fishing industry. Add your voice to the cry for a salmon bycatch cap, send a comment to the NPFMC here.

The salmon bycatch cap and why it’s important…

Send comments to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council before March 25, 2009 demanding a 32,500 bycatch cap!

The demand for pollock to produce fish sticks, fish patties, imitation crab and many other fish products is threatening the health of a huge fishery off Alaska’s coast. Huge factory-owned trawlers capture tens of thousands of salmon in their nets. This “bycatch” in thrown back, dead after hours of being dragged in a trawl net

Fishermen in rural villages depend on a healthy salmon run each year. For thousands of years, Native American villagers have relied on an abundant salmon run to preserve for their winter diet. The salmon run was so bad this year that rural Alaskans are struggling to feed their families.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet April 1-7, 2009 in Anchorage to choose a management measure to reduce Chinook salmon bycatch. The Council is considering a hard cap on salmon bycatch, which would close the pollock fishery down once the cap was reached. The Council is considering a range of hard caps from 29,000 to 87,500. Many Western Alaska groups are recommending a hard cap of 32,500 or lower. This 32,500 cap is based on the average bycatch prior to 2002, when the Yukon River Salmon Agreement was signed. The Agreement requires bycatch reduction and meeting escapement goals into Canada every year. Since 2002 bycatch has gone up, with over 121,000 Chinook salmon killed in the pollock fishery in one year!

The Chinook salmon that die each year in pollock nets would make a huge difference in the life and wellbeing of hundreds of rural Alaskan families in coming years. In these hard times for our communities and our Chinook salmon runs, every single salmon makes a difference.

Please join us in our effort to protect the Chinook salmon that Alaska’s Native peoples depend upon. Send a comment to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council asking them to protect salmon from pollock fishing bycatch.

They will be accepting written comments for consideration until March 25. You can also provide comments in person at the meeting in Anchorage, April 1-7. Please take a moment to request the bycatch cap be set at 32,500 for Chinook salmon.

Key points to include in comments are:

• The importance of Chinook salmon to you and the people of your region for subsistence and/or commercial fisheries;
• The impacts recent years of low Chinook runs have had on you, your family and your community;
• The Council and NMFS should adopt a hard cap of no more than 32,500 Chinook salmon immediately to protect Western Alaska Chinook salmon.

You can submit written comments to the Council.

Send to: North Pacific Fishery Management Council
605 West 4 Avenue, Suite 306
Anchorage, AK 99501-2252
Fax: (907) 271-2817


11 Responses to “Don’t make us do this! Cap bycatch at 32,500”

  1. Mark Springer Says:

    Excellent post, and a very critical issue.
    You might want to also address the nexus between our CDQ companies and the salmon bycatch issue. Their comments to the Draft bycatch EIS shed a little light on their own thinking on the matter and are well worth reading.

  2. Lori P Says:

    What a waste of good salmon, and what a tragedy for the poor folks who depend upon it. Fortunately a solution has been identified, and we can be encouraged by the progress that was made by the tuna industry in helping preserve the dolphins.

  3. the problem child (an aunt, also) Says:

    Here’s what I sent to the Council:

    Bycatch has to be the most pernicious and wasteful practice in fisheries. Because the trawlers don’t have the appropriate licenses, the bycatch is tossed like garbage. And it is dead or dying by the time it is tossed.

    Another serious issue is fish farming. The farmed fish DO escape. And their compromised DNA,along with their diseases, find their way into the healthy, wild population.

    The subsistence fisheries of Alaska need the wild populations of salmon to stay healthy and sustainable.

  4. elsie09 Says:

    In Alaska, the Community Development Quota Program began in December of 1992 with the goal of promoting fisheries-related economic development in western Alaska. The program is a federal fisheries program that involves eligible communities who have formed six regional organizations, referred to as CDQ groups. There are 65 communities within a fifty-mile radius of the Bering Sea coastline who participate in the program.
    One of these six groups is the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association. To learn more about the issues of salmon bycatch, please look at the BSFA’s March 9 newsletter which you can find at (601.8 KB) If you are like me, you will find a confusing amount of information diligently attempting to explain the scope of the problems of salmon bycatch.

    Various things have been tried in recent years, but, since 2000, the salmon bycatch numbers have continued to rise. The industry tried closing fishing in “Voluntary Rolling Hot Spots” (VHRS), according to where the fish catch varied in time and area, but that didn’t work in keeping the bycatch within acceptable levels. In spite of all that has been tried, the fact remains in these last several years that the Chinook salmon bycatch went FAR beyond “acceptable” and well into the range of “OBSCENE”!

    In 2005, Chinook salmon bycatch hit 67,363; in 2006, it was 82,647; in 2007, it hit the obscene number of 121,638. The annual salmon runs on the Yukon delta inland and many other Alaskan rivers was miserably low last season, and it is forecast to be another bad season this year. This hurts the small commercial fishing people and the subsistence fishing families, as well. That’s the major reason the pollock industry needs to stop the bycatching of salmon and interrupting the fish’s return to Alaskan rivers to spawn each year.

    Right now, Alaskans need public comment in support of limiting the bycatch to a hard cap number, which the BSFA asks be no greater than 32,482 Chinook salmon. “Hard cap” means that when the pollock fishing conglomerates hit that specific number of 32,482 Chinooks caught in the pollock fish nets, POLLOCK FISHING IS CLOSED. That’s a “HARD CAP”! We want a HARD CAP of no more than 32,482 Chinooks. That’s what the public comment letters would request, ideally.

    The deadline for public comments to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council is Wednesday, March 25. Page 6 of the BSFA newsletter offers suggestions on ways to get involved in this issue.

    Another one of the six CDQs is the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association. Their website is There you will find more information of a similar nature, plus a sample letter if you happen to be a party to Alaskan fishing yourself. Otherwise, information on the site may be helpful.

    One last thing: Fishery management decisions are guided by ten “National Standards” written into the federal law that mandated protection of U.S. fishing out 200 miles from American shores.

    National Standard #1 states: “Conservation and management measures shall prevent overfishing while achieving, on a continuing basis, the optimum yield from each fishery for the United States fishing industry.”

    National Standard #9 states: “Conservation and management measures shall, to the extent practicable, (A) minimize bycatch, and (B) to the extent bycatch cannot be avoided, minimize the mortality of such bycatch.”

    Fishery management decisions in this case will represent a balance between the two, one that tries to achieve the optimum yield (note the standard does not say “maximum” yield) from the pollock fishery, while minimizing the Chinook bycatch.

  5. Secret TalkerΔ Says:

    I am curious, what happens now that we have turned in ou comments?

  6. Art Says:

    Elsie, actually BSFA and YRDFA are not CDQ groups. Thank you for linking to our newsletter (I work for BSFA and put most of the newsletter content together). It is a lot of information and can be quite confusing. People should not feel obligated to comment on the details, however. Just communicating about how important the commercial and subsistence salmon fisheries are to western Alaskans is quite important.

    The 6 CDQ groups are:
    Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association (APICDA, representing several communities in the Aleutian Islands and the community of St. George)
    Bristol Bay Economic Development Association (BBEDC, covering the Bristol Bay area)
    Coastal Villages Region Fund (CVRF, representing villages in the Kuskokwim River delta area)
    Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association (CBSFA, representing the community of St. Paul)
    Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association (YDFDA, representing villages in the Yukon River Delta area)
    Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation (NSEDC, covering the Norton Sound and Bering Strait region)

  7. Just wondering Says:

    Art –

    Do you have links to the QDCs or contact information?

    I think many of us learning about Alaska this winter are interested in making sure these companies are operating in the best interest of the villagers.

    We’ve heard whispers that some are using their native status to exploit opportunities for non-natives in the Pacific Northwest.

    Any thoughts?

  8. elsie09 Says:

    OOPS! Thanks, Art. (insert sheepish grin here)

    After wading through so many hours of reading and trying to figure out so much Alaskan fishing “stuff”, my few brain cells just kinda fried up and started misfiring.

    Obviously, I had a difficult time with acronyms! YRDFA just looks too much like YDFDA after so many hours of study. They all roll up together into a big confusing ball, along with the hundred or so other acronyms I was trying to keep straight!

    I really appreciate your looking over things and clarifying where I dropped the ball. I’m still confused, but maybe one of these days, I’ll understand things better. If that ever happens, it will be due, largely, to you, Sir!! Thanks, again, for all your kind and conscientious efforts to help me/us learn about the bycatch issues.

  9. Art Says:

    Elsie…it’s my pleasure to try and help. Yes, all the similar acronyms are easy to mix-up.

    Just wondering, a good site to access more CDQ information would be

    From there, you can find some general information about the program, as well as links to each of the individual groups websites..

  10. Art Says:

    JW, the other part of your question is just that…whispers, IMO.

    The CDQ program HAS provided very significant benefits to western AK. On this issue (salmon bycatch) the CDQ groups are in a tough spot. They want to do economic development in their regions, and the money they use for that comes largely from the pollock fishery. Some feel more strongly about the extent of the bycatch impact upon salmon returns. While some other folks have serious concerns about the pollock fishery (or any trawl fishery for that matter) and want to see the pollock harvest reduced or eliminated…I’m not in that camp. But, I do want to see some meaningful limits on salmon bycatch.

  11. Art Says:

    Ann and Vic are quoted (from thier written materials) in today’s Anchorage Daily News story on bycatch! Good job!

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