Chinook Bycatch Plan Approved


May 21, 2010

Fishing groups decry approval of chinook bycatch plan with upper limit of 60,000 salmon

By ALEX DEMARBAN , Alaska Newspapers

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke has approved a controversial king salmon bycatch plan for the Bering Sea pollock fishery, said Doug Mecum, deputy regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Service’s Alaska region.

Many Western Alaska fishermen have bashed the plan, passed last year by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, saying it allows the pollock industry to catch far too many king salmon before they return to rivers to spawn. The plan won’t help struggling king runs rebound, they’ve said.

Locke approved the plan May 14, Mecum said.

Changes might still be made to the rule, scheduled to begin in January 2011, but they shouldn’t be significant, he said.

The Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association shared Mecum’s letter describing the decision with The Tundra Drums

Below is a written reaction sent by YRDFA this afternoon:

Today Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke approved a plan proposed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (the Council) to manage Chinook salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery.

The plan, called Amendment 91, allows the pollock fishery to catch up to 47,591 Chinook salmon in any year, and up to 60,000 Chinook salmon in any two out of seven years without penalty if they participate in an industry run “incentive plan.”

Groups throughout Western Alaska endorsed a lower cap including AVCP, the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN), TCC, Kawerak, the Western and Eastern Interior Regional Subsistence Advisory Councils (RACs), the Federal Subsistence Board, the Alaska Board of Fisheries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of State and the Yukon River Panel.

“Amendment 91 completely ignores the unanimous recommendations from across Western Alaska for a cap of around 30,000 Chinook salmon,” said Myron Naneng, President of the Association of Village Council Presidents.

“Western Alaskan tribes as well as those responsible for managing our fisheries inriver spoke loudly and clearly, but our requests fell on deaf ears to both the Council and the Secretary of Commerce.”

The Bering Sea pollock fishery catches Chinook salmon as bycatch while fishing for pollock.

These are the same salmon whose return we await each year, including those from the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers, Bristol Bay and Norton Sound, as well as Cook Inlet and the Pacific Northwest. These salmon cannot be retained by the pollock fishery and therefore must either be thrown back into the water — dead after hours in the nets — or saved for donation to food banks.

In 2007, the pollock fishery caught over 120,000 Chinook salmon as bycatch, in contrast to the 10-year average (1997-2006) of 43,328. According to recent estimates over 50% of the Chinook salmon caught as bycatch are bound for Western Alaska.

Low returns of Chinook salmon throughout Western Alaska have caused severe economic distress in recent years as subsistence harvests are restricted and small commercial fisheries are eliminated. The Yukon River Chinook salmon fishery was declared a fishery disaster for the 2008 and 2009 seasons by the Secretary of Commerce.

“It is beyond unjust that the pollock fishery will be allowed to continue catching Chinook salmon virtually without limits offshore while inriver families sit on the banks watching their food and income swim by. This conservation burden should not be borne by rural residents, commercial and sport fishers alone,” said Becca Robbins Gisclair, Policy Director for the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association.

The 60,000 upper limit approved in Amendment 91 has only been exceeded three times in the past eighteen years, and essentially preserves the status quo. Even the 47,591 cap in essence preserves the long-term average bycatch.

“Amendment 91 does little more than preserve the pollock fishery’s current bycatch numbers. The Council and National Marine Fisheries Service missed an opportunity here and disregarded their obligation to actually reduce bycatch. All that has been accomplished is to put the current numbers in regulation,” said Karen Gillis, Executive Director of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association.

Amendment 91 relies on a system of industry run incentive plans to reduce bycatch below the stated cap levels. However, the plans operate outside of Council/agency control with no guarantees of bycatch reduction. The plans have changed already from what was presented to the Council when they voted to approve Amendment 91 last April.

“By relying on industry incentive plans as the primary means of bycatch reduction, the Council and NMFS have once again allowed industry to self regulate. We’ve seen how well this has worked for the banking and oil industries. Its irresponsible to leave the management of our precious salmon resources to an industry that just a few years ago, when regulatory measures were relaxed, caught over 120,000 Chinook salmon in one year,” said Loretta Bullard, President of Kawerak.

A coalition of Western Alaska groups had asked the Secretary to reject Amendment 91 because it did not meet NMFS’ legal requirements to reduce bycatch, nor the needs of subsistence users, nor the United States’ obligations under the Yukon River Salmon Agreement, and international treaty with Canada.

“In approving Amendment 91, the Obama Administration has chosen to prioritize the economic interests of the pollock fishery over the needs of salmon users throughout the state. In doing so they’ve ignored an overwhelming message from Alaska’s tribal governments that the bycatch reduction measures of Amendment 91 will not provide our people and Chinook salmon populations with the protection they need and deserve. This is a very sad day for our Chinook salmon and the people who depend on them,” said Jerry Isaac, President of Tanana Chiefs Conference.

reprinted with permission from the Tundra Drums

Amendment 91 can be viewed here.


9 Responses to “Chinook Bycatch Plan Approved”

  1. Man_from_Unk Says:

    Yes indeed, “This is a very sad day for our Chinook salmon and the people who depend on them”.

    I live in the Norton Sound area where Loretta Bullard, President of Kawerak, has had control over Federal Funds coming into our region for at least 20 years. She had plenty of years, bucks and influence on the politics to do something about the salmon declines. Her long time partner, Roy Ashenfelter has also had a position of influence for all these years as Chairman of the Fish and Game Advisory Board for the Northern Norton Sound area. Control for the benefit of Who?

    It’s been that long since the Locals, especially in the Nome area, have been restricted from partaking in a cultural and traditional activity, that of catching and storing salmon for food.

    It’s extremely ironic that she comments about the “management of our precious salmon” FINALLY after all these years especially since her long time partner, Roy Ashenfelter, recently started working for NSEDC, the Norton Sound CDQ program, the Baby spawned from the Bering Sea Factory Pollock Fishery. Will they challenge the system to become CHAMPIONS of the poor people denied a “precious” resource or will they continue with the status quo and make a half hearted attempt to appear to be concerned while their bank accounts grow and grow and grow?

  2. Elsie Says:

    Man_from_Unk, maybe you can tell me something about the annual reports that CDQs are “required” to make to all their shareholders, or, whatever the people they represent are called. Seems like I read that maybe a year or so ago, a new regulation went into effect requiring each CDQ to submit an annual, business-like report to all its people by a certain date every year–seems like maybe in July. Have you seen anything like that from your local CDQ?

    I realize that millions of dollars pass through the hands of the CDQ board members, and somehow, in wide-ranging ways, they are supposed to directly funnel much of that money back into their communities. I certainly could be wrong, but I don’t see too much, generally speaking, in the news about financial services or actual financial benefits that actually filter back down to the regular folk.

    How do these board members get elected, anyway? Why is so much of their business kept so secret? The lack of transparency emits a certain odor, it would seem. What is your opinion on all of this? And what kind of salary and what perks do these board members enjoy? Do you have any idea?

    Do you know anything about the work of the Bering Sea Project? It’s a joint research partnership between the North Pacific Research Board and the National Science Foundation studying the ecosystem of the Bering Sea. I ran across an interesting website at

    Thanks for any help you can give to shed some light on all these questions I have.

  3. NS_Crabber Says:

    Here is a link to the annual reporting requirement. The CDQ groups don’t have to report complete and accurate financial information or audit reports so it is hard to tell what any of it means. NSEDC refuses to even provide its audited financial statements to its own board of directors.

    Transparency and accountability are nonexistent in CDQ groups. This needs to be changed.

    NMFS and Ted Stevens say that the CDQ groups are not required to hold fair and open elections for their boards of directors.

    CDQ Panel Rule

  4. Man_from_Unk Says:

    My opinion on the “lack of transparency” in the Norton Sound’s CDQ program, NSEDC, is that it opens the door for mismanagement of the Public Money entrusted to that organization on behalf of the people. Their CEO gets paid $1,000/day; she has minimal qualifications and no prior experience running a multi-million dollar corporation.

  5. Elsie Says:

    So, how the heck does someone get placed, picked, or given such powerful board placements as CEO of these CDQs?

    If there is no election, how do these people get onto these boards?

    Why on earth do the resident communities accept this as the status quo instead of demanding transparency and accountability??

    I absolutely do not understand.

  6. NS_Crabber Says:

    Anyone who calls for transparency and accountability is cut off from access to all community controlled funds that are in the hands of a very few individuals. That kind of thinking threatens the hierarchy and is dealt with harshly. There are few sources of income in rural areas and no one is independently wealthy enough to buck the power structure which aggressively defends its primacy against outsiders.

    Sadly, it has been this way so long that people have come to see it as normal.

  7. Man_from_Unk Says:

    Adding onto the comment from blogger ‘NS_Crabber’, those in control of these Public Funds, “a very few individuals” are very manipulative and are also angry people who use bully tactics to control their influence over the decision making process of these farce Corporations. They misrepresent the facts and paint those calling for “transparency and accountability” the bad guys. They keep onboard carpetbaggers who will do their biding no matter how unethical their actions are. They pay the carpetbaggers very well for their services. As ‘NS_Crabber’ pointed out, “no one is independently wealthy enough to buck the power structure which aggressively defends it’s primacy against outsiders.” So true.

    A good example of this type of control was shown recently in the Nome School Board Recall Election. Read the history in The Nome Nugget. Excessive use of ‘Executive Sessions’ is a warning signal that what is being said behind closed doors is probably a misrepresentation of the facts. It’s about controlling and manipulating the ignorant. The sad thing is that the Board is kept ignorant for the benefit of those in control. A little bit of prestige for a meager Per Diem check and free booze occasionally goes a long way for someone who is willing to believe lies. No ethics in play what-so-ever.

  8. alaskapi Says:

    How much do you think the corporate structure of these entities feeds into the problem?
    My memory is that NSEDC, excuse me if I’m wrong, technically a non-profit benevolent organization made a for -profit arm to generate income . That the for-profit outfit is called a “feeder” for the parent corp and as such has been battling to keep from paying federal income tax since they insist they are not a “normal” purposed corporation…
    Also-the CDQs seem to be exempt from sharing any info which could affect their business interests negatively in the open market but seem to have taken that a few steps further and exempted themselves from reporting in a MEANINGFUL way to their stakeholders?
    Each CDQ sets it’s own voting rules for board rep from the member villages…
    Does each do the same thing for the board itself?

    Sad to say- I’m not enamored of the corporate model.
    “Shareholders/stakeholders” get to vote for a board which has no real responsibility beyond throwing some money at folks in dividends or in case of CDQs a dock here and there and a scholarship or three…
    The model itself is not adequate to the tasks we expect of the CDQs nor for that matter – our Regional Corps…
    Pffft on em all.

  9. Man_from_Unk Says:

    ‘alaskapi’, the corporate structure of the CDQ program feeds into the problem. They have locked out the common man and have convinced the government that they will look after the best interests of their stakeholders. The whole program can be revamped in 2012 and I think by that time the stakeholders will be more prepared to turn things around.

    The CDQs were modeled after the Land Claims Corporations. Look at the lack of empathy those have shown to the shareholders in 40 years. The poor people of Western Alaska don’t need anymore Federal and State sanctioned corporations that look after the TOP men anymore. They are going nowhere but to line a few pockets. It’s very transparent for those of us who are willing to look beyond the BS.

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