In his recent opinion piece, Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent- Lang painted a rather rosy picture of all the actions that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is currently “acting on” to address the trawl fleet’s enormous bycatch of species immeasurably important to Alaskans. While the actions he lists may be a step in the right direction, the problem with these actions is that while they are being initiated, considered, analyzed, intended, researched, or looked at, they are future actions or regulations that may or may not find their way into being implemented nearterm. As such, they do absolutely nothing to stop the current decimation of Alaska’s fisheries by a trawl fleet in search of profit while being allowed to waste and throw away more fish by weight, species or even carcass count than the other gear types that depend on the discarded species for food and subsistence are even allowed to catch.
If pollock is one of Alaska’s most abundant fish species and is actively managed to ensure the pollock population remains sustainable, why not also manage bycatch species to ensure these populations remain sustainable? Obviously, ocean warming, acidification, and climate change play a part in fisheries sustainability; but current trawl regulations illogically allow the waste of bycatch species by the trawl fleet while current regulations and management philosophy for these bycatch fish species appear to focus on imposing penalties by curtailing seasons, loss of fishing time, loss of entire seasons, reduced catch limits and smaller fish sizes for the vessels harvesting a fraction of those same species being wasted. Why not address the issue of bycatch species waste by actively penalizing the largest source of bycatch species waste rather than considering, initiating, looking at, researching, or analyzing the issue?
— William Jarrett
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