Fish & Game task force suggests updates to fishing industry in managing bycatch

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on the Alaska Bycatch Task Force's findings and recommendations.
Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 7:48 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Alaska Bycatch Review Task Force provided its recommendations on how to manage bycatch to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council last Thursday.

Bycatch describes any marine species unintentionally harvested in a fishery that cannot be sold or kept due to regulations or a lack of demand, according to Fish & Game’s Extended Jurisdiction Program Manager Karla Bush.

“(The) purpose of the task force was to explore the issue of bycatch and provide recommendations to policymakers, and in this case, that’s the governor of Alaska as the lead policymaker for the state,” Bush said.

In their findings, the task force recommended that a permanent entity dedicated to mitigating bycatch is established and that the State of Alaska forms a bycatch policy alongside the board of fisheries.

Besides taking the steps to further understand bycatch, the task force also had recommendations for how to immediately mitigate bycatch, including modifications to equipment and improving technology to catch fish and identifying hotspots, and updating discard mortality rates that have become outdated.

“Data is necessary for determining the shifts and patterns with the changing climate. Both salmon and crab have experienced shifting distribution patterns,” Bush said. “It’s critical to understand these patterns, both temporally and spatially, to ensure that the best information is being used when developing bycatch mitigation measures.”

All three of these recommendations were highlighted by the task force because they found each measure would mitigate bycatch for all species and management areas, Bush said.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council meets next in Anchorage starting April 3.