Bering Sea pollock program review leaves some doubts
2017-02-13 14:52:46   copyfrom:    hits:

Pollock catch (Photo: NOAA)UNITED STATESSaturday, February 11, 2017,01:00 (GMT + 9)After an indefinite postponement,

Pollock catch. (Photo: NOAA)


Click on the flag for more information about United StatesUNITED STATES 
Saturday, February 11, 2017, 01:00 (GMT + 9)


After an indefinite postponement, last December, a catch quota system for the Gulf of Alaska that has in preparation for four years, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) agreed to review the program implemented in the Bering Sea, Alaska's largest fishery in volume.  

Over the past two years, there has been controversy and struggle of interests that the Council has sought to address, in particular in connection with the incidental catch of chinook salmon and halibut, and share quotas for groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska, says an article published in the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

The American Fisheries Act (AFA) of 1998 was designed to end foreign control of the Bering Sea pollock fishery. Under the new rules, ships must be a minimum 75 percent US-owned.

The review of the program implemented in the pollock fishery shows that it produced some consolidation: At start of 2000, 18 companies owned the 19 catcher-processors in the Bering Sea fishery. By 2015, seven companies owned them.

In addition, impacts to fishing communities have been “largely beneficial,” according to the review’s authors, Marcus Hartley and Gary Eaton of research firm Northern Economics.

Stakeholders and Council both acknowledge that the AFA program in Unalaska was a big step in fisheries management, bringing a host of management tools into practice.

But the review was not without problems. The council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee hadn’t reviewed the study, leaving several questions.

Among other issues, council members wanted more information that the study had related to Community Development Quota (CDQ), ownership and individual vessel ownerships.

The CDQ program gives 10 percent of the overall groundfish harvest quota to 65 western Alaska villages within 50 miles of the coast. This program was designed to promote economic health in those regions, and some of the review’s statistics point to success.

Over the length of the pollock-based program, royalties going to CDQ groups from the AFA fishery have increased.

From 2001 through 2005, CDQ royalties ranged between USD 42.6 million and USD 60.5 million per year, with increases every year. Pollock accounted for 79 percent to 86 percent of total all-species royalties in any given year during this period.

From 2007 to 2013, estimates ranged between USD 59.9 million and USD 79.5 million per year, with a general upward trend.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner and council member Sam Cotton wanted a more detailed breakdown of CDQ ownership in the fishery, in other words, if the share size would depend on percentage of the vessels, harvesting capacity or revenue.

The study has similar gaps in the 100 individual AFA recipients. Under this law, none of these vessels may have less than 75 per cent US ownership. The question is whether these regulations have been met, since information on ownership of coastal vessels "was insufficient to determine changes in ownerships pattern," Hartley indicated.

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