Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
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  • The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which manages federal fisheries in Alaska, will continue to explore options for how to manage chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. The council, facing rising pressure from western Alaska communities who depend on chum as a cornerstone of subsistence, released a statement Wednesday summarizing their decision from their April meeting.
  • The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will not move forward with a request to close the Bristol Bay red king crab savings area to all commercial fishing. At its February meeting, the regulatory council looked at the effectiveness of closing the 4,000-square-nautical-mile section of the eastern Bering Sea to commercial trawl, pot and longline fishing, but decided not to tighten regulations in the area.
  • Nearly 100 tribes and communities in western Alaska, including the Association of Village Council Presidents, signed their support for an emergency petition that would set a zero bycatch limit on chinook salmon in the pollock trawl fishery for 180 days, a move Unalaska Mayor Vince Tutiakoff Sr. said would “effectively shut down the entire pollock fishery of the Bering Sea,” and create a “dire situation” for Unalaska.
  • The total amount of pollock allowed to be scooped up by trawlers in the Bering Sea will stay the same in 2024. In its Dec. 9 meeting in Anchorage, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council moved to keep the total allowable catch for pollock at its current level of 1.3 million metric tons, a move that has generated criticism from conservationists, tribes, and the trawling industry alike.
  • The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has reopened the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery, following a two-year closure.ADF&G announced Friday morning that the lucrative crab fishery will open Oct. 15, following analysis of survey data by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has denied an emergency request Friday to close crucial habitat for Bristol Bay red king crab to all types of commercial fishing.That comes after Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers petitioned in late September for a closure of the red king crab savings areas to protect the species during a time of historically low stocks.The nonprofit, which represents independent crab harvesters, requested that the grounds be closed to all fishing gears from Jan. 1, 2023 through the end of June.
  • Bering Sea snow crab will close for the first time in the fishery’s history. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced Monday afternoon that snow crab — also known as opilio crab — and Bristol Bay red king crab would not open for the upcoming fall and winter fishing seasons. Miranda Westphal, an area management biologist for ADF&G, said stocks are just too low to justify opening either fishery. “All of our crab stocks in the Bering Sea have seen declines the last few years,” Westphal said. “[For] red king crab, we've been seeing declines for a little over a decade now. We just see very little recruitment coming into the population — not a lot of crab maturing into a fishable size. And so we're just seeing more of that this year.”
  • The governor’s task force to review the effect of bycatch in Alaska fisheries is working to organize against its tight timeline for submitting recommendations to state and federal policymakers. It also has to balance commercial and subsistence interests.
  • The council that manages fishing in federal waters voted to link groundfish trawl fishing in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to halibut abundance today. The action caps — at least for now — a six-year debate about curbing halibut bycatch in Alaska.
  • All three Kenai Peninsula representatives to Juneau have signed onto a letter to the council that oversees commercial fishing in Alaska’s federal waters, joining a bipartisan chorus of voices demanding reduction of halibut bycatch.Specifically, representatives are asking the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to approve Alternative 4 at its meeting next week, which would take the most significant swing toward linking the trawl fleet’s fishing with halibut abundance in the Bering Sea.