The Challenges Confronting Alaska Bycatch Task Force

Laine Welch, Alaska fishing industry columnist for the Anchorage Daily News, has more on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s controversial bycatch task force and what it’s facing:

All fisheries are plagued by accidental takes of unwanted species, due to size or being out of season or on a fishing gear’s “can’t catch” list. It includes multimillions of tons of fish and crab that are required by law to be discarded every year.

There is no denying that the trawl sector bears the brunt of the bycatch burden. There is no denying they hate tossing fish over the side as much as any other fisherman.

Alaskans have been angry and frustrated by the federally required waste for decades, but it took last summer’s shutdown of the Yukon River subsistence chum salmon fishery to really get people’s attention.

While village smokehouses and freezers stayed empty, trawlers had no limits on their chum bycatch and went about business as usual. “We have to communicate directly with affected communities,” said ABRT member Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) at the March 9 meeting. “That’s something we have to think about as we develop a product – how we’re going to have two-way communications with the folks that have gotten us to this point where we have a bycatch working group in the first place.”