Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120

03/09/2017 10:00 AM FISHERIES

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10:02:15 AM Start
10:03:00 AM Presentation: "bycatch"
12:00:40 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation: Bycatch TELECONFERENCED
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON FISHERIES                                                                            
                         March 9, 2017                                                                                          
                           10:02 a.m.                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Louise Stutes, Chair                                                                                             
Representative Zach Fansler                                                                                                     
Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins                                                                                          
Representative Geran Tarr                                                                                                       
Representative Mike Chenault                                                                                                    
Representative David Eastman                                                                                                    
Representative Mark Neuman                                                                                                      
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
PRESENTATION:  "BYCATCH"                                                                                                        
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
GLENN MERRILL, Assistant Regional Administrator                                                                                 
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)                                                                                        
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)                                                                          
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Participated in the comprehensive overview                                                               
on bycatch.                                                                                                                     
CHRIS OLIVER, Executive Director                                                                                                
North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC)                                                                                
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Participated in the comprehensive overview                                                               
on bycatch.                                                                                                                     
SAM COTTEN, Commissioner                                                                                                        
Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G)                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:   Participated in the  comprehensive overview                                                             
on bycatch.                                                                                                                     
TRENT HARTILL, Federal Fisheries Coordinator                                                                                    
Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G)                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:   Participated in the  comprehensive overview                                                             
on bycatch.                                                                                                                     
CHRIS WOODLEY, Executive Director                                                                                               
Groundfish Forum, Inc.                                                                                                          
Seattle, Washington                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:   Participated in the  comprehensive overview                                                             
on bycatch.                                                                                                                     
BRENT PAINE, Executive Director                                                                                                 
United Catcher Boats Association                                                                                                
Seattle, Washington                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:   Participated in the  comprehensive overview                                                             
on bycatch.                                                                                                                     
STEPHANIE MADSEN, Executive Director                                                                                            
At-Sea Processors Association (APA)                                                                                             
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:   Participated in the  comprehensive overview                                                             
on bycatch.                                                                                                                     
JULIE BONNEY, Vice-President                                                                                                    
Alaska Groundfish Data Bank                                                                                                     
Kodiak Chamber of Commerce                                                                                                      
Kodiak, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:   Participated in the  comprehensive overview                                                             
on bycatch.                                                                                                                     
LINDA BEHNKEN, Executive Director                                                                                               
Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association (ALFA)                                                                                  
Sitka, Alaska                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT:   Participated in the  comprehensive overview                                                             
on bycatch.                                                                                                                     
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
10:02:15 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  LOUISE  STUTES  called  the  House  Special  Committee  on                                                             
Fisheries  meeting  to  order  at  10:02  a.m.    Representatives                                                               
Stutes, Neuman, Eastman, and Fansler  were present at the call to                                                               
order.     Representatives  Tarr,  Chenault   and  Kreiss-Tomkins                                                               
arrived as the meeting was in progress.                                                                                         
10:03:00 AM                                                                                                                   
^PRESENTATION:  "Bycatch"                                                                                                       
                    PRESENTATION:  "BYCATCH"                                                                                
CHAIR STUTES announced  that the only order of  business would be                                                               
a comprehensive presentation from  state and federal agencies, as                                                               
well as related private industry, on the topic of "bycatch."                                                                    
10:04:05 AM                                                                                                                   
GLENN MERRILL, Assistant  Regional Administrator, National Marine                                                               
Fisheries Service  (NMFS), described and defined  bycatch as held                                                               
in the  Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and  Management Act                                                               
(MSA),  1976,  quoting,  "...  fish  which  are  harvested  in  a                                                               
fishery, but are  not sold or kept for personal  use, or includes                                                               
economic discards  and regulatory  discards ...".   Bycatch  is a                                                               
standard occurrence in all fisheries,  both sport and commercial,                                                               
regardless of  gear type,  area fished, or  time of  harvest, but                                                               
the  amount and  type of  bycatch varies.   The  economic discard                                                               
bycatch  is made  up of  fish which  are of  poor quality,  don't                                                               
represent a  marketable species, or  for other reasons, and  is a                                                               
representatively  small  category.     The  majority  of  discard                                                               
bycatch  are regulatory  discards meaning  they are  caught on  a                                                               
gear type that  is not allowed for the species,  are taken out of                                                               
season, do not  meet size requirements, or due to  other state or                                                               
federal   regulations.     He  explained   that  two   management                                                               
considerations are  applied to bycatch situations:   the benefits                                                               
and  costs  to  fishermen,  and   the  impacts  on  fish  stocks.                                                               
Reducing bycatch can  increase the harvest for  some fishermen as                                                               
well as reduce stock impacts;  however, it generally represents a                                                               
trade off  because reducing  the bycatch  of a  comingled species                                                               
often causes a reduced harvest of  the target fishery.  Also, the                                                               
cost of reducing bycatch in one  fishery may not be offset by the                                                               
ability to substantially  improve a stock.  The  MSA requires the                                                               
minimization of bycatch  and bycatch mortality.   Thus, anytime a                                                               
federal  action  is  adopted,  ten  required  considerations  are                                                               
applied, four of which, as  stated in the act, establish measures                                                               
for:   minimizing  bycatch and  bycatch mortality  to the  extent                                                               
practicable; achieving the optimum  yield from each fishery; fair                                                               
and   equitable  allocation;   and  sustained   participation  of                                                               
10:08:02 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  MERRILL  said  the  main  types of  bycatch  that  occur  in                                                               
Alaska's  federal  fisheries  are groundfish  bycatch,  which  is                                                               
basically the catch of anything  except halibut, salmon, herring,                                                               
and shellfish; halibut bycatch;  and salmon bycatch, particularly                                                               
Chinook salmon.   He referred  to the committee  handout, titled,                                                               
"NOAA  Fisheries Alaska  Region, Alaska  State Legislature  House                                                               
Fisheries Committee  Presentation:  Bycatch, March  9, 2016," the                                                               
page  labeled,   "2016  Groundfish  Catch  by   Gear  in  Federal                                                               
Fisheries Off Alaska,"  and the bar graphs  indicating metric ton                                                               
levels of  groundfish by gear  type to illustrate the  bycatch in                                                               
relation to  the retained  catch.   He pointed  out that,  of the                                                               
roughly two million metric tons  taken by the trawl fisheries, 98                                                               
percent of the catch is  retained.  Discards include pollock, and                                                               
arrowtooth flounder,  as well as  non-marketable species  such as                                                               
skates, sculpins,  and some species  of rockfish.   The hook-and-                                                               
line  gear  fishery  harvested  about  150,000  metric  tons  and                                                               
retained 81  percent of  the catch.   The  discards in  this gear                                                               
type include  Pacific cod, and  sablefish.  The pot  gear fishery                                                               
harvested about  50,000 metric tons,  and retained 96  percent of                                                               
the  catch.   The  overall  percentage  of bycatch  represents  a                                                               
minimal proportion of the catch  discarded on an annual basis, he                                                               
said.   He reviewed the  subsequent page of the  handout labeled,                                                               
"2003-2016  Halibut Bycatch  Of  Alaska," which  provided a  line                                                               
chart  of the  metric tons  of halibut  taken in  the Bering  Sea                                                               
Aleutian Island (BSAI)  and Gulf of Alaska (GOA)  trawl and hook-                                                               
and-line  fisheries,  as well  as  a  line charting  the  halibut                                                               
bycatch for  the time period  graphed.  The indications  are that                                                               
halibut bycatch is  at an all-time low, slightly  less than 4,000                                                               
metric tons,  which, he said,  can be  attributed to a  number of                                                               
management actions  that have  been implemented  by NMFS  and the                                                               
North  Pacific Fishery  Management  Council (NPFMC),  as well  as                                                               
industry initiatives.  On the  continuing page of the handout, he                                                               
reviewed  a  pie  chart,  labeled, "2016  Halibut  Bycatch  as  a                                                               
Percentage  of  All  Halibut  Catch,"  illustrating  the  federal                                                               
allotment of the halibut catch  by category percentages:  bycatch                                                               
17,  commercial landings  60, recreational  17, personal  use and                                                               
subsistence 3, and waste in commercial landings 3.                                                                              
MR.  MERRILL  said  the genetic  composition  of  Chinook  salmon                                                               
bycatch is of  particular interest, and an  annual review focuses                                                               
on identifying the  origins of the stock.   He directed attention                                                               
to  a  map  in  the  handout  labeled,  "Chinook  Salmon  Genetic                                                               
Composition  Areas," illustrating  the specific  locales used  to                                                               
define  the origins  of each  of the  genetically unique  Chinook                                                               
salmon stocks  taken as  bycatch in the  Alaskan fisheries.   The                                                               
line graph and pie chart  on the subsequent page, labeled, "2003-                                                               
2016  Gulf of  Alaska Chinook  Salmon Bycatch,"  provided a  line                                                               
graph to illustrate  the number of Chinook  bycatch that occurred                                                               
in  the GOA.   The  last few  years have  seen reductions  in the                                                               
bycatch levels,  which he attributed to  management practices and                                                               
fleet  efforts.   The  pie  chart,  on  the same  page,  provided                                                               
percentages  of  genetic  composition  estimates  from  the  2014                                                               
pollock  fishery for  Chinook  salmon bycatch  taken  in the  GOA                                                               
pollock  fishery, and  reported that  approximately 6  percent of                                                               
the  bycatch  have been  determined  as  bound for  other  areas,                                                               
outside  of  the   gulf.    Roughly  5  percent   are  from  fish                                                               
originating  in the  Kodiak and  Cook  Inlet Rivers.   Nearly  80                                                               
percent of the bycatch represent  stocks out of British Columbia,                                                               
the Lower 48, or Southeast Alaska.                                                                                              
10:14:31 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  MERRILL said  the  story of  Chinook in  the  Bering Sea  is                                                               
significantly different, and turned  to the handout page labeled,                                                               
"2003-1016 Bering Sea  Chinook Salmon Bycatch," to  review a line                                                               
graph and  pie chart reflecting  the findings for the  origins of                                                               
salmon taken  in the Bering  Sea.  He  pointed out that  about 44                                                               
percent  of all  Chinook salmon  caught are  bound for  the river                                                               
systems  of coastal,  Western Alaska  and the  Yukon River.   The                                                               
proportion  of the  bycatch associated  with the  pollock fishery                                                               
shows that less  than 3 percent of Chinook and  1 percent of chum                                                               
salmon are returning to the  watersheds of Western Alaska and the                                                               
Yukon River.   He said controls are placed on  halibut and salmon                                                               
bycatch  using  regulatory  and  non-regulatory  measures.    The                                                               
regulatory measures include  the following:  use  of bycatch caps                                                               
to  close or  modify the  fisheries;  closure of  areas based  on                                                               
migration   patterns;   specific   gear  limitations   for   some                                                               
fisheries; catch share management  practices to allocate quota to                                                               
individual fishermen and eliminate the  need for fleet members to                                                               
"race for fish," which encourages  information sharing and better                                                               
fishing  practices; Bering  Sea  bycatch caps  linked to  Western                                                               
Alaska returns  to provide management flexibility  based on stock                                                               
abundance;  issuance of  experimental  fishing  permits to  allow                                                               
deck  sorting of  catch  to get  the halibut  back  into the  sea                                                               
quickly,  within  20-30  minutes, which  reduces  mortality;  and                                                               
constant  communication  with  the   fleet  to  aide  vessels  in                                                               
avoiding bycatch  hot spots  and unify the  fishing effort.   The                                                               
industry  is  also  involved  in  an  effort,  through  voluntary                                                               
cooperatives,  to  avoid  reaching  bycatch  caps  and  having  a                                                               
fishery shut  down.   Voluntary measures  practiced by  the fleet                                                               
include use  of special  gear with excluder  devices, as  well as                                                               
standing down when bycatch species are in high abundance.                                                                       
10:19:33 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  MERRILL  discussed  measures being  considered  to  continue                                                               
lowering  bycatch  numbers,  which   include:    linking  halibut                                                               
bycatch  caps to  abundance reports;  regulating deck  sorting of                                                               
halibut   in  all   waters  off   of   Alaska;  improving   fleet                                                               
communications   regarding   bycatch   hot   spots;   encouraging                                                               
additional industry efforts for  voluntary cooperatives and stand                                                               
down  practices; facilitating  catch-share programs  supported by                                                               
the  NPFMC;  and  constantly evaluating  the  performance.    The                                                               
annual reports  provide a constant  flow of information  in order                                                               
to affect improvements.  He  directed attention to the final page                                                               
of the handout to invite the  members and the public to visit the                                                               
listed websites.                                                                                                                
The committee took an at-ease from 10:21 a.m. to 10:22 a.m.                                                                     
10:22:53 AM                                                                                                                   
CHRIS   OLIVER,  Executive   Director,   North  Pacific   Fishery                                                               
Management  Council (NPFMC),  said  the Magnuson-Stevens  Fishery                                                               
Conservation and Management Act  (MSA), 1976, is the over-arching                                                               
law for managing fisheries in  federal waters by establishing the                                                               
200  nautical mile  exclusive economic  zone, and  the system  of                                                               
regional councils  comprised of  fishermen and  government agency                                                               
representatives   to  develop   fishery  regulations   for  their                                                               
specific areas, as subject to  approval and implementation by the                                                               
federal  government,  such  as   the  National  Marine  Fisheries                                                               
Service  (NMFS).    He  highlighted   two  of  the  MSA  national                                                               
standards for  use in  the bycatch context  being discussed:   1)                                                               
prevent  overfishing  while  achieving  optimum  yield  from  the                                                               
fishery, and 2) minimize bycatch  and bycatch mortality.  Meeting                                                               
these two standards  requires a delicate balancing  act, he said,                                                               
and creates a constant tension  for achievement in both trawl and                                                               
hook-and-line fleets.                                                                                                           
10:24:58 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. OLIVER  explained the structure, function,  and process under                                                               
which the  NPFMC operates.   It seats  11 voting members,  six of                                                               
whom  are from  Alaska, notably  the commissioner  of the  Alaska                                                               
Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G).   He said the council meets 5-                                                               
6  times per  year, concurrent  with its  advisory groups,  which                                                               
include an industry advisory panel,  a scientific and statistical                                                               
committee, and numerous other committees  which provide advice on                                                               
issues,  not  unlike  the  Board   of  Fisheries.    He  directed                                                               
attention  to the  committee packet  handout  titled, "The  North                                                               
Pacific  Council  and Recent  Measures  to  Minimize Halibut  and                                                               
Salmon  Bycatch, A  presentation for  the Alaska  House Fisheries                                                               
Committee," the  page labeled  "Council membership,"  and pointed                                                               
out  the  make-up  of  the current  membership.    Reviewing  who                                                               
manages the fisheries  of Alaska, he said salmon  are under state                                                               
purview, crab is a collaboration  of federal and state oversight,                                                               
groundfish are  under federal purview,  and halibut  are governed                                                               
under an international treaty between the U.S. and Canada.                                                                      
10:26:28 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. OLIVER stressed the critical  elements of the ecosystem based                                                               
approach   to  fisheries   in  the   North   Pacific,  which   is                                                               
conservative and imposes strict  target catch and bycatch limits.                                                               
An   important  component   of   managing  the   effort  is   the                                                               
comprehensive  observer program.   In  2015, the  Bering Sea  and                                                               
Aleutian   Islands  (BSAI)   and   the  Gulf   of  Alaska   (GOA)                                                               
groundfish/halibut   fisheries  implemented   a  mandatory   full                                                               
coverage observer program, at a  cost to industry of $15 million.                                                               
Certain vessels  are allowed to  operate under  partial coverage.                                                               
Electronic monitoring  is being implemented as  an alternative on                                                               
some  longline  and  pot  catcher vessels.    He  explained  that                                                               
bycatch controls impose  caps on prohibited species,  which are a                                                               
fundamental  key to  the management  process.   The council  also                                                               
encourages  industry  efforts  to  reduce  bycatch  through  gear                                                               
modifications, communications, and fleet agreements.                                                                            
10:28:39 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  OLIVER spoke  specifically to  the BSAI  salmon bycatch  and                                                               
said the  Bering Sea  pollock fishery is  under a  60,000 Chinook                                                               
salmon limit,  with an  incentive plan,  implemented in  2011, to                                                               
remain  below 47,591.   Modifications  were made  in April  2015,                                                               
which   included   imposing   more   stringent   incentive   plan                                                               
requirements  to include  salmon excluder  devices, and  lowering                                                               
bycatch caps  in years of low  Chinook abundance.  He  said these                                                               
changes  were  coupled with  the  previous  BSAI provisions  that                                                               
included 100  percent observer coverage,  complete census  of all                                                               
salmon  species  by  observers, increased  genetic  sampling  for                                                               
stock  of origin  in  both  the BSAI  and  GOA fisheries,  annual                                                               
reports to  the council on  genetic stock of origin  results from                                                               
the  fisheries,  and  annual  reports  on  effectiveness  of  the                                                               
incentive  programs, to  include a  third party  audit.   The GOA                                                               
pollock fishery  imposes a 25,000  Chinook salmon  bycatch limit,                                                               
which is  apportioned between the central  and western regulatory                                                               
areas.   Additionally,  a separate  7,500 Chinook  salmon bycatch                                                               
limit is imposed on the non-pollock fisheries in the GOA.                                                                       
10:30:40 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. OLIVER said the council took  action in June, 2012, to reduce                                                               
the  existing halibut  prohibited species  catch (PSC)  mortality                                                               
limits in the  gulf, which saw the trawl and  catcher vessel (CV)                                                               
longline sector limits decrease by  15 percent over the course of                                                               
three years,  2014-2016, and the catcher  processor (CP) longline                                                               
sector decrease  by 7 percent  in one  year.  The  current limits                                                               
are now  at 266 metric  tons for hook  and line and  1,706 metric                                                               
tons  for trawl  gear, apportioned  seasonally, among  deep-water                                                               
and shallow-water species, he said.                                                                                             
10:32:07 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. OLIVER explained that the  BSAI halibut bycatch measures were                                                               
significantly addressed  in June, 2015, when  the council reduced                                                               
the PSC limits for all  the groundfish sectors, across the board,                                                               
by 21 percent.   The message was clear that  the council has long                                                               
held bycatch caps, and the  effort now is to significantly reduce                                                               
the  bycatch  levels.    The  industry  groups  have  managed  to                                                               
implement  measures  to  meet  the  new  standard,  he  reported.                                                               
Additional  steps  related to  the  Bering  Sea halibut  include:                                                               
establishment   of   an   over-arching   framework   to   improve                                                               
coordination   between   the    International   Pacific   Halibut                                                               
Commission  (IPHC) with  the council;  exploration of  abundance-                                                               
based halibut  PSC limits  in the BSAI;  annual reports  from the                                                               
trawl flatfish  fishery on fleet requirements  to achieve reduced                                                               
halibut  bycatch;  improved  methodology  for  assessing  halibut                                                               
bycatch  discard   mortality  rates  (DMRs)  in   the  groundfish                                                               
fisheries; and  deck sorting  of trawl  caught halibut  to reduce                                                               
bycatch  mortality.   Finishing,  he  directed  attention to  the                                                               
penultimate page  of the handout, labeled,  "PSC Bycatch Limits,"                                                               
to provide  a summary of  the bycatch  cap limits broken  down by                                                               
species and distribution between gear types.                                                                                    
The committee took a brief at-ease at 10:34 a.m.                                                                                
10:35:12 AM                                                                                                                   
SAM  COTTEN,  Commissioner,  Alaska  Department of  Fish  &  Game                                                               
(ADF&G),  expressed appreciation  for the  comprehensive overview                                                               
being  presented and  offered  the  following clarifications  and                                                               
comments:     The  definition  of   bycatch  should   be  clearly                                                               
differentiated  from incidental-catch,  which is  legal, although                                                               
subject  to   limitations;  the   terms  are   often  incorrectly                                                               
interchanged.   Six of the  eleven voting members on  the council                                                               
represent  the U.S.,  although the  goals for  balanced fisheries                                                               
are a shared concern.  Many  areas of Alaska are dependent on the                                                               
groundfish  harvests,  although a  high  percentage  is taken  by                                                               
fishermen who  identify as  "other than"  Alaskan resident.   The                                                               
proportion of  Chinook salmon  in the Gulf  of Alaska  (GOA) that                                                               
originate in Alaskan  watersheds is about 20 percent.   The catch                                                               
of fish from  Southeast Alaska (SE) have  generally originated in                                                               
hatcheries.  The  bycatch Chinook salmon taken in  the Bering Sea                                                               
is  only 5  percent of  the overall  harvest, but  50 percent  of                                                               
those are  Alaska bound  fish.  He  recalled that  Chinook salmon                                                               
bycatch limits  were not imposed in  the gulf or the  Bering Sea,                                                               
until a  spike occurred  in the early  2000's, which  resulted in                                                               
about 120,000  Chinook salmon  being taken in  one season.   Data                                                               
and statistics  abound showing that  only about 3 percent  of the                                                               
salmon bycatch  represent fish  bound for  the rivers  of Western                                                               
Alaska,  although 50  percent of  the salmon  bycatch are  Alaska                                                               
bound fish.                                                                                                                     
10:40:00 AM                                                                                                                   
TRENT HARTILL,  Federal Fisheries Coordinator, said  two types of                                                               
fisheries occur  in state  waters.  The  first are  the guideline                                                               
harvest fisheries  (GHL), which  are regulated under  the purview                                                               
of  ADF&G  through  the  Alaska  Board  of  Fisheries  regulatory                                                               
process, and   have the following characteristics:   typically no                                                               
salmon or halibut bycatch limits  are imposed, with the exception                                                               
of  Prince William  Sound  pollock fishery;  the  state does  not                                                               
administer a  groundfish observer  program to track  bycatch; GHL                                                               
fisheries  are small  in scale  and effort;  the state  prohibits                                                               
non-pelagic  trawling  in  most  state waters,  which  serves  to                                                               
alleviate the  incidents of  bycatch; and  the state  has limited                                                               
longline  and trawl  GHL  fisheries.   The  second  type are  the                                                               
parallel  fisheries, which  have  the following  characteristics:                                                               
regulated and operated  under federal purview but  occur in state                                                               
waters; salmon and  halibut bycatch taken in  state waters accrue                                                               
to the overall federal bycatch  limits; all participating vessels                                                               
are  subject to  federal observer  program requirements;  and the                                                               
state  has  jurisdiction  to  modify  the  regulations,  but  the                                                               
management structure is established  by the North Pacific Fishery                                                               
Management  Council  (NPFMC)  and  implemented  by  the  National                                                               
Marine  Fisheries  Service  (NMFS).     The  department  recently                                                               
proposed  an  element that  was  adopted  by the  council,  which                                                               
allows flexibility to the state  for mitigation of Chinook salmon                                                               
bycatch limits.                                                                                                                 
10:44:08 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. HARTILL directed attention to  the committee handout, titled,                                                               
"Salmon  and Halibut  Bycatch in  State Managed  Fisheries, House                                                               
Fisheries  Special  Committee,  March  9,  2017,"  and  the  page                                                               
labeled,   "Guideline   Harvest   Level   and   Sablefish   Quota                                                               
Fisheries,"  to point  out  the Alaska  map  showing the  fishery                                                               
areas, gear types fished, and the  allowed limits.  The areas are                                                               
designated  as Southeast  (SE), Prince  William Sound  (PWS), and                                                               
Cook  Inlet.   In  the  SE, the  longline  effort prosecutes  the                                                               
demersal shelf rockfish  (DSR), Pacific cod, and  sablefish.  The                                                               
catch  allowance is  comparatively low  to federal  fisheries and                                                               
trawl gear is  prohibited.  Although there are  no bycatch limits                                                               
in SE, many  of the members of the fleet  hold an individual fish                                                               
quota (IFQ) for halibut, which  serves as a mitigating factor for                                                               
many of the  halibut caught.  Trawl gear is  prohibited.  In PWS,                                                               
openings for longline allow the  taking of sablefish, and Pacific                                                               
cod,  and  also impose  no  halibut  bycatch  limits due  to  the                                                               
prevalence of  IFQ's.   The trawl  fleet is  allowed to  take 9.4                                                               
million pounds of  pollock and a limit of 3,773  pounds of salmon                                                               
bycatch has  been set for the  2017 season.  The  Cook Inlet area                                                               
hosts  one longline  fishery that  harvests about  50,000 pounds,                                                               
has  no halibut  bycatch limit,  with nearly  100 percent  of the                                                               
participants  holding  an  IFQ,  and non-pelagic  trawl  gear  is                                                               
MR. HARTILL  referred to the  final page of the  handout labeled,                                                               
"State Managed Parallel  Fisheries," to point out  the Alaska map                                                               
of the parallel fishery areas  and indicating the gear types used                                                               
and limits  allowed.   Parallel fisheries  are conducted  in four                                                               
areas:  Kodiak, Bering Sea  Aleutian Islands (BSAI), South Alaska                                                               
Peninsula, and  Chignik.   The Kodiak  area hosts  two fisheries:                                                               
longline for  Pacific cod, and  a trawl effort for  pollock using                                                               
non-pelagic  gear.   The  BSAI  area  also hosts  two  fisheries:                                                               
longline for  Pacific cod,  and trawl  for pollock,  Pacific cod,                                                               
and Atka mackerel.  Non-pelagic  trawl gear is allowed in limited                                                               
state  waters for  specific areas  of  this fishery.   The  South                                                               
Alaska  Peninsula  area fishery  directly  reflects  that of  the                                                               
BSAI,  save the  presence of  Atka  mackerel.   The Chignik  area                                                               
hosts a  longline fishery  for Pacific cod,  and a  trawl fishery                                                               
for pollock.   The  non-pelagic trawl gear  is prohibited  in the                                                               
Chignik fishery.                                                                                                                
10:49:14 AM                                                                                                                   
COMMISSIONER  COTTEN  added   that  non-pelagic  trawl  fisheries                                                               
typically  prosecute   cod,  yellow   fin  sole,   or  arrowtooth                                                               
flounder, using a net that comes in contact with the sea floor.                                                                 
The pelagic gear is used in the mid-waters for catching pollock.                                                                
The committee took a brief at-ease at 10:49 a.m.                                                                                
10:49:45 AM                                                                                                                   
CHRIS  WOODLEY,  Executive   Director,  Groundfish  Forum,  Inc.,                                                               
provided  an overview  of the  Amendment 80  Sector, paraphrasing                                                               
from  a  prepared  statement, which  read  as  follows  [original                                                               
punctuation  provided with  some modifications,  relating to  the                                                               
committee  handout  titled,  "Amendment 80  Fisheries  &  Halibut                                                               
Bycatch Management"]:                                                                                                           
     Thank you for the opportunity  to discuss how our fleet                                                                    
     creates economic activity in  Alaska, and how our fleet                                                                    
     has  been addressing  the issue  of halibut  bycatch in                                                                    
     the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands.                                                                                           
     Slide  2:  Groundfish  Forum  is  a  trade  association                                                                    
     representing  five  companies  who  operate  19  trawl-                                                                    
     catcher processor vessels.                                                                                                 
     This  fleet of  US flagged  vessels catch,  process and                                                                    
     freeze various  flatfish, Atka mackerel,  Pacific Ocean                                                                    
     perch,  and  Pacific  cod   in  the  federally  managed                                                                    
     fisheries of the Bering Sea,  Aleutian Islands and Gulf                                                                    
     of Alaska.                                                                                                                 
     For the rest  of this presentation I  will be referring                                                                    
     to this fleet by its  industry name:  "The Amendment 80                                                                    
     The  A80   Sector  meets  the   highest  sustainability                                                                    
     standards  in  the   world  and  boasts  sustainability                                                                    
     labeling from  the Marine  Stewardship Council  as well                                                                    
     as   the  Alaska   Seafood  Marketing   Institutes  RFM                                                                    
     Slide  3:    In  conducting these  fisheries,  the  A80                                                                    
     Sector  makes over  550 port  calls a  year to  Alaskan                                                                    
     communities  where  we   deliver  processed  catch  for                                                                    
     further  transportation to  international and  domestic                                                                    
     markets.   In  the most  recently available  statistics                                                                    
     from  the 2015  NOAA fisheries  economic safe  reports,                                                                    
     the A80  Sector spent nearly  $60 million in  Alaska in                                                                    
     2015.  More specifically the A80 Sector:                                                                                   
     Purchased  $38  million  in  fuel  &  $2.2  million  in                                                                    
     Conducted $4.5  million in maintenance and  repair work                                                                    
     in Alaskan shipyards.                                                                                                      
     Paid over $3 million in fishery landing taxes.                                                                             
     These  offload  activities  in Alaskan  ports  generate                                                                    
     another  round  of  economic  activity,  indirectly  or                                                                    
     inducing 2,900 maritime support sector jobs in Alaska.                                                                     
     These  are year  round  family wage  jobs that  include                                                                    
     longshore   and   stevedoring   work,   cold   storage,                                                                    
     warehousing, transportation, freight and shipping.                                                                         
     Slide 4:   A80 fisheries are among the  best managed in                                                                    
     the world.   All catch is weighed  on computerized flow                                                                    
     scales.  Each vessel  carries a  minimum  of 2  federal                                                                    
     fishery observers, 100% of the  time.  Observers sample                                                                    
     each  haul to  determine  species  composition of  both                                                                    
     target and  bycatch species.  Raw  catch records, catch                                                                    
     production  records, and  bycatch records  are reported                                                                    
     daily  to national  marine  fisheries  service and  are                                                                    
     separately  tracked   by  a  private   data  management                                                                    
     company which allows our fleet  to react and respond to                                                                    
     real time on the grounds information.                                                                                      
     Slide 5:  It is  because of this extraordinary level of                                                                    
     management,  monitoring  and  oversight, that  we  have                                                                    
     exceptional  catch  and  bycatch  accountability.    As                                                                    
     such, we  can state  with full confidence  and accuracy                                                                    
     both our target catch and bycatch numbers.                                                                                 
     So  despite the  fact that  halibut live  and co-mingle                                                                    
     with  our target  catch, halibut  bycatch accounts  for                                                                    
     less than one half of 1% of our total catch.                                                                               
     While  halibut  is  a small  fraction  of  our  overall                                                                    
     catch,  the   management  of  halibut  bycatch   is  as                                                                    
     important, if  not more important, than  the management                                                                    
     of our target species.                                                                                                     
     Slide 6:  So what is  the state of halibut bycatch?  Is                                                                    
     it going up?  Is it going down?                                                                                            
     In an overall assessment  provided by the International                                                                    
     Pacific Halibut Commission in  January of 2017, halibut                                                                    
     bycatch was  reported to be  at its lowest  level since                                                                    
     the  full  Americanization  of the  federal  groundfish                                                                    
     fisheries in the late 1980's.                                                                                              
     Halibut bycatch  has been declining  most significantly                                                                    
     in  the  Bering Sea  and  Aleutian  island fisheries  -                                                                    
     where  the Amendment  80 fleet  has  played a  critical                                                                    
     part in this reduction.                                                                                                    
     Slide  7:    A80  companies,  captains  and  crew  work                                                                    
     extremely hard  to reduce  halibut.   I'd like  to draw                                                                    
     your  attention   to  three  key  components   of  this                                                                    
     Our ability to successfully  manage halibut bycatch has                                                                    
     been largely  due to  a cooperative  fishery management                                                                    
     structure created  by the  2008 rationalization  of our                                                                    
     fishery - known as the "Amendment 80 Program" (A80)                                                                        
     Prior  to the  A80  Program, vessels  within our  fleet                                                                    
     were  given a  common quota  (or target  and prohibited                                                                    
     species catch)  and each vessel  would race  to harvest                                                                    
     as much  fish as quickly as  possible.  As a  result of                                                                    
     this race,  our fisheries  were routinely  shutdown due                                                                    
     to  our  fleet  exceeding our  common  halibut  bycatch                                                                    
     Today,  catch and  bycatch are  allocated  down to  the                                                                    
     specific vessel  level.  Because vessels  are no longer                                                                    
     in  a   race,  our  captains  can   slow  down,  behave                                                                    
     cooperatively, share  information and avoid  halibut by                                                                    
     moving on.                                                                                                                 
     Slide 8:   The  second major  component of  our success                                                                    
     has been the ability to modify our fishing gear.                                                                           
     Gear  experimentation has  allowed  us  to reduce  gear                                                                    
     contact with the  bottom by 90% and  to develop halibut                                                                    
     excluders  that allow  halibut to  swim  free from  our                                                                    
     One  note:   when you  use a  halibut excluder  you can                                                                    
     also lose up  to 30% of your target catch.   As such it                                                                    
     can  be an  effective tool,  but only  under the  right                                                                    
     conditions on the fishing grounds.                                                                                         
     Slide 9:   Step one  was to avoid halibut  from getting                                                                    
     into  the net.   Step  two was  to modify  the gear  to                                                                    
     minimize halibut that weren't avoided.                                                                                     
     So what  happens when halibut  still get caught  in our                                                                    
     Halibut  is a  prohibited  species  catch, which  means                                                                    
     when it is  brought aboard, we are  required to discard                                                                    
     it  as soon  as  possible after  a  NMFS observers  can                                                                    
     measure and sex the fish.                                                                                                  
     Before  2015, A80  vessels were  required  to dump  our                                                                    
     nets  directly into  "live tanks"  where all  catch and                                                                    
     bycatch would  remain until they were  removed from the                                                                    
     tanks  to  begin  sorting,  processing  or  discarding.                                                                    
     Because of the timeframe  involved, halibut could be on                                                                    
     board  for hours  before they  were discarded  - mostly                                                                    
     dead.   Under this system,  NMFS estimated that  85% of                                                                    
     halibut  brought aboard  our vessels  was discarded  as                                                                    
     Slide  10:   In  2015, the  A80  Sector resurrected  an                                                                    
     experiment  bycatch handling  process which  allows the                                                                    
     sorting,  measuring, sexing  and discarding  of halibut                                                                    
     to occur from  the decks of our boats  (instead of from                                                                    
     the factory).   This  activity occurs within  the first                                                                    
     20 minutes  of the nets  being brought aboard  when the                                                                    
     halibut are still very lively.                                                                                             
     This   permitted  program,   known  as   deck  sorting,                                                                    
     requires  an additional  1 -  2  fishery observers,  as                                                                    
     well as additional  electronic monitoring and reporting                                                                    
     Since 2015 we  have expanded the number  of A80 vessels                                                                    
     participating in  the program as well  as the fisheries                                                                    
     we are  using deck sorting  in.  In 2017  we anticipate                                                                    
     further participation  in deck-sorting and  further use                                                                    
     of the program in all  our fisheries (weather and other                                                                    
     factors permitting).                                                                                                       
     Slide 11:   Results:   We have  had solid  success with                                                                    
     the deck sorting program.   In pursuing this program we                                                                    
     have found  that we can,  on average, deck sort  85% of                                                                    
     the halibut that comes on  board and that the mortality                                                                    
     rate for  deck-sorted fish can  be reduced down  to 45%                                                                    
     (instead of 85%).                                                                                                          
     We continue to  modify aspects of the  program to allow                                                                    
     for  the  maximum  adaptation and  utilization  by  our                                                                    
     fleet,  but  we  anticipate  that  deck  sorting  won't                                                                    
     become a  regulatory measure for at  least another year                                                                    
     or two.                                                                                                                    
     Closing:   The A80 fleet has  been extremely responsive                                                                    
     to  the  NPFMC's  halibut bycatch  reduction  measures.                                                                    
     Most   of  these   bycatch  reductions   measures  were                                                                    
     intended  to ensure  that additional  halibut would  be                                                                    
     available for  commercial harvest by  halibut fishermen                                                                    
     from coastal  communities (notably St. Paul)  along the                                                                    
     Bering Sea coast.                                                                                                          
     NMFS  reported  in December  2016  the  A80 Sector  had                                                                    
     reduced our halibut  bycatch by over 35%  from the most                                                                    
     recent five-year average.                                                                                                  
     We  are proud  of these  results and  continue to  work                                                                    
     closely  with  Bering  Sea halibut  fishermen  and  the                                                                    
     council  to   minimize  our   bycatch  to   the  extent                                                                    
     practicable.   However,  it is  critical to  understand                                                                    
     that  avoiding halibut,  using  halibut excluders,  and                                                                    
     deck  sorting   halibut  each  come   with  significant                                                                    
     impacts to our fleet's operations and costs.                                                                               
     Increases  in fuel  consumption, increases  in observer                                                                    
     and monitoring costs, lost  fishing time, reductions in                                                                    
     factory efficiency  brought about by deck  sorting, and                                                                    
     additional  management costs  are  just  a few  notable                                                                    
     examples   of   how   reducing  halibut   bycatch   has                                                                    
     operational impacts to the A80 fleet.                                                                                      
The committee took a brief at-ease at 11:03 a.m.                                                                                
11:03:42 AM                                                                                                                   
BRENT   PAINE,   Executive   Director,   United   Catcher   Boats                                                               
Association, directed attention to  the committee handout titled,                                                               
"Rational Bycatch  Management-Using Bycatch  Reduction Agreements                                                               
to  Minimize Salmon  Bycatch  in the  Bering  Sea Catcher  Vessel                                                               
Trawl Pollock Fishery, March 9,  2017," page 2, to illustrate the                                                               
location  of  the  pollock  fishery   with  color  gradations  to                                                               
indicate  the  metric tons  harvested  during  the 2016  "A",  or                                                               
winter, season  of the Bering Sea  pollock fishery.  He  said the                                                               
Bering Sea catcher vessel (CV)  pollock fishery is governed under                                                               
the American  Fisheries Act (AFA),  1998, which  rationalized the                                                               
pollock  fishery.   The  fleet consists  of  91 shore-based  CVs,                                                               
which deliver pollock to six  shore based cooperatives located in                                                               
the  communities  of Dutch  Harbor,  Akutan,  Beaver Inlet,  Sand                                                               
Point, and  King Cove.   The fleet  also has  19 mothership-based                                                               
CVs, which deliver to three at-sea processors.                                                                                  
11:06:07 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  PAINE  said that,  in  the  pollock  fishery, salmon  are  a                                                               
prohibited  species  catch (PSC),  which  today  applies to  both                                                               
Chinook and chum salmon.   Between 1995 and 2010, Chinook bycatch                                                               
regulations  were based  on  a trigger  closure  that caused  the                                                               
fleet to reposition.  However, beginning  in 2011, a hard cap was                                                               
allocated between  the sectors, as  adopted by the  North Pacific                                                               
Fishery Management  Council (NPFMC)  and implemented  by National                                                               
Marine Fisheries Service  (NMFS); Amendment 91.   The chum salmon                                                               
were managed  under a combination  of time and area  closures and                                                               
triggered  closures.   Beginning  in  2017,  the council  adopted                                                               
Amendment  110,  and the  chum  Chinook  salmon bycatch  are  now                                                               
managed together.                                                                                                               
11:07:13 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. PAINE  explained that the  rationalized fishery  structure is                                                               
key for the  pollock fishery to operate  cooperatively for salmon                                                               
bycatch  reduction.   Each cooperative  has an  inter-cooperative                                                               
agreement  (ICA),  which  is  a  written  agreement,  across  all                                                               
sectors,  governing the  pollock  fishery  participants.   Within                                                               
each  ICA, rolling  hot spot  (RHS)  agreements exist.   The  RHS                                                               
agreements were first effected in  the early 2000's.  He directed                                                               
attention  to the  handout  page 7,  labeled,  "Rolling Hot  Spot                                                               
Closures, High  bycatch areas  identified by  Sea State,"  with a                                                               
sector map  showing gradation color  markers to indicate  how RHS                                                               
areas  are  tracked.   Every  week  a  data company,  Sea  State,                                                               
provides  the fleet  with comprehensive  updates.   Areas showing                                                               
high rates of  bycatch are closed, as per the  ICA.  Vessels that                                                               
have  demonstrated low  rates of  bycatch may  continue to  fish,                                                               
having proven  that they are able  to minimize bycatch.   He said                                                               
another  tool that  is used  are  fixed area  closures.   Certain                                                               
areas can  be predicted to  have high  rates of bycatch,  and the                                                               
fixed  area  closure  is  imposed,   proactively,  based  on  the                                                               
multiple years  of bycatch  data.  He  directed attention  to the                                                               
handout,  page 9,  labeled, "Chinook  Conservation  Area -  Fixed                                                               
Closure ICA," and the map illustrating a fixed closure sector.                                                                  
11:09:31 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  PAINE said  another  key  to bycatch  reduction  is the  100                                                               
percent  at-sea observer  and  shore-side, offloading  monitoring                                                               
requirement.  The high level  of coverage means the salmon counts                                                               
provided  to  the data  base  are  actual census  numbers  versus                                                               
estimates.   The CV  and catcher processor  owners pay  a monthly                                                               
fee  to contract  the observer  coverage.   Further, the  CVs are                                                               
required   to  release   electronic   data  to   Sea  State   for                                                               
compilation, which includes  the catch data gathered  by the NMFS                                                               
observer and the ADF&G fish tickets.   Also provided to Sea State                                                               
is the  data from  the vessel monitoring  system (VMS),  which is                                                               
required by  participants and provides  a constant  location link                                                               
to know where a boat is fishing.                                                                                                
11:10:25 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.   PAINE  explained   the  effect   of  Amendment   91,  which                                                               
incentivizes the cooperatives to  avoid Chinook salmon bycatch by                                                               
utilizing  the  approach of  offering  a  carrot versus  using  a                                                               
stick.   Thus, the hard  cap was  established and the  concept of                                                               
offering IPAs was implemented.   The hard cap percentage share is                                                               
60,000 Chinook salmon, and the  incentives are geared to keep the                                                               
number under 47,591.   The incentives to  minimize Chinook salmon                                                               
catch and penalties for catching,  are realized at the individual                                                               
vessel level.  He pointed out  that the crucial point has been to                                                               
incentivize  vessels  to  avoid  Chinook salmon  bycatch  at  all                                                               
levels of  abundance in  all years.   Under  a straight  hard cap                                                               
approach, the  vessels will  fish to the  allowed limit,  but the                                                               
IPAs promote the practice of  avoidance altogether, which results                                                               
in minimal take  of all non-target species.   The incentives must                                                               
influence  fishing decisions  at levels  below the  hard cap,  he                                                               
stressed, in order  to hold bycatch to a  performance standard of                                                               
11:12:36 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  PAINE described  the Salmon  Savings  Incentive Plan  (SSIP)                                                               
inshore sector,  which the fleet  submits annually to  the NPFMC,                                                               
as  a plan  for  managing  its Chinook  salmon  allotment.   Each                                                               
vessel  receives a  base cap  allocation  (BCA) representing  its                                                               
share of the  47,591 performance standard to be met.   A vessel's                                                               
BCA is made pro rata to  its pollock allocation.  Thus individual                                                               
vessels  may receive  a catch  allowance as  high as  2,000 while                                                               
others  have a  limit of  70.   The BCA  is the  target that  the                                                               
vessel will strive to stay below.   The primary incentive is that                                                               
a  vessel receives  a  salmon  savings credit  (SSC)  for use  in                                                               
future years for  annual bycatch levels that fall  below its BCA.                                                               
He explained  that the SSCs serve  to bridge the gap  between the                                                               
performance standard  and the hard  cap at the  individual vessel                                                               
level.   The SSCs are the  primary incentive of the  program, and                                                               
are  earned at  the rate  of one  credit for  every three  salmon                                                               
avoided below a  vessel's BCA.  Although the credits  are for use                                                               
in future years,  they can only be banked for  three years, after                                                               
which they expire.                                                                                                              
11:15:36 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. PAINE summarized  that the SSIP guarantees that  no more than                                                               
21,750 Chinook salmon will be caught  in any year.  To administer                                                               
the SSIP, a  secure web-accessible database is  required in order                                                               
for up-to-date  information to be  available to all of  the co-op                                                               
participants.   He directed attention to  committee handout, page                                                               
29,  labeled,  "Salmon Excluder,"  and  the  illustration of  the                                                               
required device  in use on all  vessels.  Continuing to  page 30,                                                               
labeled, "Results of  the Pollock CV Efforts  to Minimize Chinook                                                               
Salmon Bycatch, From NMFS Dec.  2016," containing a bar graph and                                                               
inset summary,  he pointed out  that the AFA  Inshore cooperative                                                               
had a total  2016 Chinook salmon catch limit of  33,390, but took                                                               
only 30  percent of that  number, or  10,026.  The  total bycatch                                                               
for  all  entities   was  37  percent  lower   than  the  overall                                                               
allocation:   60,000 allowed, 21,920 taken.   He said this  is an                                                               
indication of how well the  program is working.  Finally, turning                                                               
to  page  31,  labeled,  "BSAI Trawl  Chinook  Salmon  Incidental                                                               
Catch,"  he reviewed  the  history of  the  bycatch numbers  from                                                               
2005-2016, to stress the recent trend of lower bycatch rates.                                                                   
The committee took a brief at-ease at 11:17 a.m.                                                                                
11:17:53 AM                                                                                                                   
STEPHANIE   MADSEN,   Executive   Director,   At-Sea   Processors                                                               
Association  (APA),  said  APA  is  a  fleet  of  large,  catcher                                                               
processor (CP) vessels that catch  fish and process the catch on-                                                               
board.  The  fleet operates exclusively in  federal fisheries and                                                               
is not involved  in the parallel fisheries that  occur in Alaskan                                                               
waters.   The Pollock  Conservation Cooperative  structure allows                                                               
rational  management  of  the  target  species  as  well  as  the                                                               
bycatch.   The fleet  is partnered  and owned  by several  of the                                                               
community  development quota  (CDQ)  groups,  including:   Norton                                                               
Sound, Coastal  Villages, and the Central  Bering Sea Fisherman's                                                               
11:20:02 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. MADSEN  explained that pollock,  a cousin to cod,  provides a                                                               
flaky,  white, mild  flavored meat.   The  Alaska pollock  is the                                                               
largest  fishery   in  the  U.S.,   and  the   largest  certified                                                               
sustainable fishery  in the world.   The fishery is  certified by                                                               
the  Alaska Seafood  Marketing Institute  (ASMI) program  and the                                                               
Marine Stewardship Council  (MSC).  She said  the vessels operate                                                               
under  the federal  requirement  for two,  onboard observers,  as                                                               
well as  with flow scales, and  on-board cameras.  The  fleet was                                                               
formed  under  the  American Fisheries  Act  (AFA),  1998,  which                                                               
directed the  formation and structure  of the cooperatives.   The                                                               
AFA maintains an informational database  for compiling reports on                                                               
the fisheries, which are available  to any interested party.  The                                                               
information provides a high level  of transparency for the fleets                                                               
operational practices and accountability.                                                                                       
11:21:40 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. MADSEN  said the  bycatch rulings that  govern the  fleet are                                                               
Amendment   91,  implemented   in   2011,   and  Amendment   110,                                                               
implemented  in  2017.   The  regulatory  section  closures  were                                                               
recognized  as  not  being  particularly  effective  in  avoiding                                                               
bycatch  species,  thus  the  North  Pacific  Fishery  Management                                                               
Council  (NPFMC) invoked  a program  that  provided the  industry                                                               
with particular objectives; however, it  was left in the hands of                                                               
the  association  to  design an  effective  approach,  and  adopt                                                               
management practices  for the  fleet, to attain  the goals.   The                                                               
fleet  strives to  be  good performers  and  remain in  operation                                                               
throughout the season.   Hard caps do exist,  she said, providing                                                               
a  low  abundance  limit,  performance  standard  limit,  and  an                                                               
absolute  limit.   However, these  act as  backdrops that  aren't                                                               
expected to be reached, especially  the absolute limit of 17,040,                                                               
which,  if   attained,  would  shut   down  the  fishery.     The                                                               
performance  standard  limit,  13,516,  is  used  for  managerial                                                               
purposes, but if  it is reached for three out  of seven years, it                                                               
will become  the hard  cap.  The  possibility provides  a primary                                                               
incentive for  the fleet  to avoid bycatch  and remain  below the                                                               
performance standard limit.  The  2017 season has been identified                                                               
by  ADF&G  as  a  low  abundance year,  and  the  fleet  will  be                                                               
correspondingly managed under the limit of 9,462.                                                                               
11:24:00 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. MADSEN explained the incentive  plan agreement (IPA) that the                                                               
CP  association adopted,  as a  means to  provide the  incentives                                                               
necessary to  achieve the goals  and objectives of  Amendments 91                                                               
and 110.   The IPA fleet contract was submitted  to, and approved                                                               
by,  National  Marine Fisheries  Service  (NMFS).   The  IPA  was                                                               
initially adopted  in 2011, but has  undergone some modifications                                                               
to  comply with  Amendment  110, which  requires  all vessels  to                                                               
utilize  salmon excluder  devices at  designated times  of salmon                                                               
abundance.  She reviewed the  primary components of the IPA plan,                                                               
which   include:      data  gathering,   monitoring,   reporting,                                                               
information sharing;  identification of bycatch  avoidance areas;                                                               
fishing  area   prohibitions  for   vessels  with   poor  bycatch                                                               
performance;  A-season  closed   area  and  conditional  B-season                                                               
closed  areas; vessel  outlier penalties;  and  gear research  on                                                               
salmon   excluders.      The   other   important   component   is                                                               
accountability, she  stressed.   Every year APA  must demonstrate                                                               
to the NPFMC that  the mechanisms in the IPA are  working.  A key                                                               
aspect  of the  fleet's communication  system is  the 10  Chinook                                                               
salmon  alert.   This  alert  is received  by  herself and  every                                                               
member of the  fleet, whenever 10 Chinook salmon are  caught by a                                                               
single  vessel.   The  other  vessels  can easily  determine  the                                                               
locale of  the alert, and  avoid the  "hot spot" area.   Although                                                               
technology  has been  devised and  implemented  to avoid  Chinook                                                               
salmon entering  the nets,  it is not  yet possible  to determine                                                               
whether any  have been caught until  the net is brought  on board                                                               
the vessel and the fish are out of the water, she said.                                                                         
11:27:23 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. MADSEN  directed attention to the  committee handout, titled,                                                               
"House  Special Committee  on Fisheries,  Innovative approach  to                                                               
reducing bycatch, March  9, 2017," page 10, labeled  "2015 CP IPA                                                               
results  -  A-season  Bycatch  Avoidance   Areas,"  and  the  map                                                               
illustrating the  identified bycatch  avoidance areas  (BAAs) and                                                               
the restrictions  observed by the  CP sector.   In weeks  of high                                                               
bycatch reports, vessels with  poor avoidance performance records                                                               
were subject  to exclusion  to these  areas.   Some weeks  of the                                                               
season saw up  to seven vessels being  denied fishing privileges.                                                               
She  used   the  subsequent  page,  labeled,   "A-season  Chinook                                                               
Conservation  Area;  B-season  Chinook  Conservation  Areas,"  to                                                               
locate  and describe  two areas  identified for  closure:   1) An                                                               
area of  735 square mile  is closed  to all pollock  fishing, 100                                                               
percent of the time, during the  A-season.  The sector is a known                                                               
Chinook salmon abundance area.  2)  An area of 1,295 square miles                                                               
is closed  to CP pollock  fishing in  the second half  of October                                                               
depending on  the bycatch  rate reported for  September.   If the                                                               
September Chinook  salmon bycatch exceeds  1.5 fish per  100 tons                                                               
of pollock, the suspension is invoked.                                                                                          
11:28:34 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  MADSEN  explained  the  outlier   program  APA  designed  to                                                               
identify a vessel  that operates outside the normal  range of the                                                               
others.    Reminding the  committee  that  the fleet  fishes  two                                                               
seasons  per year,  she said,  if a  vessel is  identified as  an                                                               
outlier  during   three  seasons,   the  penalties   imposed  are                                                               
exclusion  from known  avoidance  areas, and  exclusion from  any                                                               
conditional, in-season closures.   However, she reported, the APA                                                               
has  not  identified   any  boat  in  the   fleet  with  standard                                                               
deviations over three seasons to  require the measure be invoked.                                                               
Vessels have  successfully changed bycatch behavior  when initial                                                               
indications of deviation have been called to their attention.                                                                   
11:29:33 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  MADSEN explained  that new  gear  technologies for  avoiding                                                               
bycatch are continually being sought.   Fish behavior is factored                                                               
into  the  prototypes,  such as  Chinook  salmon  being  stronger                                                               
swimmers  than  pollock, and  that  salmon  are light  sensitive.                                                               
However, it  is understood that  fishing for pollock in  the same                                                               
area where salmon are abundant will  never be a possibility.  The                                                               
fleet  is also  cooperating with  the genetic,  stock composition                                                               
analysis  being conducted  by the  governing agencies,  and every                                                               
tenth Chinook salmon  brought on board is sampled  to provide the                                                               
required data.   She directed attention to  the committee handout                                                               
page,  labeled,  "Genetic  Stock   Composition  Analysis  of  the                                                               
Chinook Salmon Bycatch  from 2015 BS Pollock  Trawl Fishery; BSAI                                                               
Chinook  Bycatch  by  Year,"  the  graph  illustrating  the  data                                                               
analysis,  and pointed  out  the origins  of  the bycatch  salmon                                                               
11:31:16 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. MADSEN said the vessels  participate in the food bank program                                                               
and  any  edible bycatch  salmon  is  donated  to Sea  Share  for                                                               
distribution to  schools and community  support centers,  such as                                                               
Bean's Café  in Anchorage,  and the  Glory Hole  in Juneau.   Ms.                                                               
Madsen summarized the three measures  being taken by the fleet to                                                               
avoid  bycatch:    fleet bycatch  caps  allocated  to  individual                                                               
vessels;  observation of  rolling hot  spot avoidance  areas; and                                                               
seasonal closures.  The challenge  is for APA to demonstrate that                                                               
the  measures being  implemented are  adequate.   Notable success                                                               
points proving the industry is  operating with good faith efforts                                                               
include the  practice of  vessels relocating  to avoid  high risk                                                               
areas,  the  data  statistics  that indicate  a  trend  of  lower                                                               
Chinook  salmon bycatch,  and  the development/implementation  of                                                               
technological innovations such as  the salmon excluders. Finally,                                                               
she acknowledged  that the presentation  did not  address halibut                                                               
bycatch  as the  pollock fleet  is  a pelagic  trawl fishery  and                                                               
seldom encounters halibut, although guidelines do exist.                                                                        
The committee took an at-ease from 11:33 a.m. to 11:35 a.m.                                                                     
11:35:51 AM                                                                                                                   
JULIE  BONNEY,  Vice-President,   Alaska  Groundfish  Data  Bank,                                                               
Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, described  the Kodiak, Gulf of Alaska                                                               
(GOA)  sustainable  trawl   fisheries  fleet  characteristics  as                                                               
follows:   comprised  of 38-40  vessels,  mostly in  the 80  foot                                                               
range with many being family-owned  and employing a locally based                                                               
crew;  many  have the  experience  of  working in  a  cooperative                                                               
fleet, from a history of work  with groups such as the Bering Sea                                                               
pollock  fleet; and  the  catch is  delivered  to six  shore-side                                                               
processors, which comprises about 60  percent of the total Kodiak                                                               
port landings.   The trawl fisheries are  sustainably managed for                                                               
species of pollock, cod, rockfish,  and flatfish, which are under                                                               
federal purview  and regulated through the  North Pacific Fishery                                                               
Management  Council  (NPFMC).   The  pollock,  cod, and  flatfish                                                               
catch are certified  by the Marine Stewardship  Council (MSC) and                                                               
Alaska  Responsible Fisheries  Management  (RFM)  programs.   The                                                               
fish are  taken in high  volume of  species that represent  a low                                                               
economic value.   The  harvest activity  provides a  fishery that                                                               
operates  nearly year-round.   The  fishery exerts  a significant                                                               
economic  impact  on Kodiak,  as  reported  in a  McDowell  Group                                                               
analysis,  compiled for  the Kodiak  Island Borough  and City  of                                                               
Kodiak, in May  2016.  She reviewed the  report highlights, which                                                               
indicated the following:  the port  of Kodiak is ranked as number                                                               
three  in the  nation  by value  and number  two  by volume;  the                                                               
groundfish  harvesting  and  processing accounts  for  almost  20                                                               
percent  of  all employment  in  Kodiak;  groundfish fishing  and                                                               
processing accounts for  most jobs, more income,  and more impact                                                               
on  the Kodiak  economy than  any other  fishery providing  2,000                                                               
jobs, $111  million in  labor income, and  $187 million  in total                                                               
seafood  output  for  the Kodiak  economy;  year-round  fisheries                                                               
create  year-round  resident  jobs   with  about  50  percent  of                                                               
processing  workers,   1,390,  claiming  Kodiak   residency,  and                                                               
Kodiak's  year-round fisheries  and  shore-based processors  lead                                                               
the  state   in  employing  the   highest  percentage   of  local                                                               
11:39:04 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. BONNEY said  the ability to manage bycatch  and achieve total                                                               
allowable  catch  depends  directly  on  the  fishery  management                                                               
system, and she reviewed the  approaches taken in the gulf versus                                                               
the Bering  Sea.   The gulf  trawl management  encourages fishing                                                               
vessels to race against each other  for access to the target fish                                                               
of  pollock  or cod,  while  subject  to constraining  fleet-wide                                                               
bycatch  caps  on halibut  and  Chinook  salmon.   There  are  no                                                               
individual  vessel accountability  requirements for  bycatch, nor                                                               
any  incentives  to  slow  the   fishery  and  encourage  working                                                               
together as a fleet.  In  the Bering Sea trawl management sector,                                                               
both target species allowances and  bycatch caps are allocated to                                                               
co-ops so no  individual vessel is racing for catch.   The co-ops                                                               
have  formal agreements  and penalties  to  control behavior  and                                                               
include  incentives  for all  participants  to  collaborate as  a                                                               
fleet  to minimize  bycatch.   The  GOA  trawl industry  operates                                                               
under bycatch  restrictions for Chinook  salmon and  halibut, but                                                               
without  formal  cooperative  management.    If  the  limits  are                                                               
reached, the  fisheries are  closed to  all participants  and can                                                               
remain closed  for the  season or  the entire  year.   The recent                                                               
bycatch regulations affecting the  GOA trawlers include a Chinook                                                               
salmon  bycatch  limit  for the  pollock  fisheries,  implemented                                                               
2012;   Chinook  salmon   bycatch  limit   for  the   non-pollock                                                               
fisheries,  implemented  2015;  and   reduction  of  the  halibut                                                               
bycatch  limit  by  15  percent  implemented  over  a  three-year                                                               
period, 2014-2016.                                                                                                              
11:41:31 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. BONNEY explained the efforts  taken by the Kodiak trawlers to                                                               
address the bycatch  issue.  The group advocated  for the Central                                                               
Gulf  Rockfish Co-op  management program,  effective 2007  with a                                                               
sunset in  2021, which was  designed within the NPFMC  process to                                                               
meet   multiple  objectives   for  minimizing   bycatch,  fishery                                                               
stability, and  increased community  benefits.   Advocacy efforts                                                               
were  extended  for  a  similar program,  at  the  council,  with                                                               
bycatch  objectives  for the  trawl  cod,  pollock, and  flatfish                                                               
fisheries.  The initiative was begun in 2012 but died in 2016.                                                                  
11:42:07 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. BONNEY  directed attention to the  committee handout, titled,                                                               
"Kodiak  Trawlers  -  Bycatch  Minimization  Efforts,"  the  page                                                               
labeled, "Rockfish Program Results,"  and reviewed the line graph                                                               
tracking the  halibut catch  since 1996.   She  noted that  a six                                                               
fold  decrease  has  occurred   under  the  cooperative  program.                                                               
Additional  efforts  have  included   the  design  of  a  halibut                                                               
excluder  device  for  the  cod  trawl fishery.    It  uses  fish                                                               
morphology to  separate the catch, allowing  flatfish and halibut                                                               
to  escape  through  narrow,  side  slots,  while  retaining  the                                                               
cylindrical  shaped  fish.    The  test  fishery  on  the  device                                                               
indicated a 57 percent reduction  in halibut bycatch and it's now                                                               
widely used  in the GOA  and Bering Sea  trawl cod fisheries.   A                                                               
salmon excluder for the pollock  fishery was tested on two boats,                                                               
over four  seasons, 2013-2014, resulting  in a  salmon escapement                                                               
of  33-54 percent.   To  continue the  effort for  addressing the                                                               
issue,  the fleet  purchased  two video  systems  to monitor  the                                                               
excluder devices.   The systems are loaned to  fishermen to allow                                                               
them to  observe how  the excluders are  working on  their vessel                                                               
gear.  The  skippers are also trying out an  LED light attraction                                                               
approach for salmon.                                                                                                            
11:44:35 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  BONNEY  reported  that  another  effort  being  promoted  is                                                               
voluntary hot  spot reporting and  signal alerts for  the pollock                                                               
fisheries.  The program replicates  what is already in regulation                                                               
in the Bering Sea.   There is an ad hoc  process to allocate both                                                               
pollock and Chinook  salmon to participating vessels  to stop the                                                               
race for fish.   The allocations are aggregated  at the processor                                                               
level to  create the  co-ops.   The voluntary  agreements include                                                               
bycatch reporting requirements  and individual vessel performance                                                               
standards.  Implementation requires  that multiple fleet meetings                                                               
be  held, which  can be  extremely  contentious as  well as  time                                                               
consuming.   She  said the  allocation agreement  requires a  100                                                               
percent consensus by the fishery  participants, and that may be a                                                               
difficult achievement,  as a  vessel captain  may decide  it's in                                                               
his  best interest  to race  for higher  catches even  though the                                                               
fishery  may be  closed  early due  to the  bycatch  cap.   These                                                               
agreements  are  tenuous and  uncertain  as  a long-term  fishery                                                               
management  structure  and  do   not  cover  all  the  groundfish                                                               
11:45:56 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. BONNEY described the consequences  of fishery closures due to                                                               
bycatch.    Referring to  examples  that  occurred in  2015,  she                                                               
explained that  the cod  and flatfish fisheries  closed on  May 3                                                               
for the  remainder of the year  due to newly imposed  salmon caps                                                               
for  the  non-pollock  fisheries.   However,  an  emergency  rule                                                               
promulgated  through the  council,  allowed the  fisheries to  be                                                               
reopened on August  10.  The potential foregone  revenue from the                                                               
lost harvest was about $4.6  million in ex-vessel value and $11.3                                                               
million in first  wholesale value.  She said  the 2016 arrowtooth                                                               
flounder  fisheries  were   closed  for  120  days   due  to  the                                                               
attainment of  halibut bycatch limits.   The  arrowtooth flounder                                                               
has good  potential in  the marketplace but  the ability  for the                                                               
industry to provide a steady  product supply is too unpredictable                                                               
to get it off the ground.                                                                                                       
11:47:11 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. BONNEY  reported on the  2017 bycatch caps  to date:   In the                                                               
Central Gulf  of Alaska  (CGOA) pollock fishery  - 47  percent of                                                               
limit has  been taken while only  32 percent of the  CGOA pollock                                                               
quota  has been  caught.    Three pollock  seasons  remain to  be                                                               
harvested.   When the cap is  hit, the fishery is  closed for the                                                               
year.   In the Gulf of  Alaska cod/flatfish fishery -  55 percent                                                               
of  the  limit has  been  taken,  all  by  the Western  Gulf  cod                                                               
fishery, leaving 45  percent, which may not be  enough to support                                                               
the  Central  Gulf trawl  fishery's  needs  for the  Pacific  cod                                                               
fishery  and year-round  flatfish fisheries.   She  stressed that                                                               
early closures mean the trawl  fisheries do not reach their total                                                               
allowable   catches   resulting   in   impacts   to   harvesters,                                                               
processors,  coastal  communities, and  the  State  of Alaska  in                                                               
terms of foregone tax revenue.                                                                                                  
11:48:28 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. BONNEY stated that the  limited access system "race for fish"                                                               
fails to reward conscientious fishermen  and favors fishermen who                                                               
catch  the greatest  amount of  fish  in the  shortest amount  of                                                               
time,  regardless of  bycatch  performance.   Frustration  exists                                                               
within the  fleet dependent  on the GOA  trawl fisheries,  all of                                                               
whom have  experienced the benefits of  cooperative management in                                                               
the  Bering Sea  trawl fisheries  and the  Central Gulf  Rockfish                                                               
Program.     The  fleet  has   termed  it  "co-op  envy."     The                                                               
participants continue to do the best  they can based on the cards                                                               
they have been  dealt, she finished, and said, "At  this point we                                                               
believe it is a solvable problem."                                                                                              
The committee took a brief at-ease at 11:49 a.m.                                                                                
11:49:56 AM                                                                                                                   
LINDA  BEHNKEN, Executive  Director, Alaska  Longline Fishermen's                                                               
Association  (ALFA), reviewed  the origination  of ALFA,  stating                                                               
that  it was  founded  in  1978 to  end  foreign overfishing  and                                                               
promote Alaskan  fisheries.  The membership  extends to fishermen                                                               
who longline for halibut and  sablefish, as well as troll, seine,                                                               
and gillnet  for salmon, and  extends to those pursuing  crab and                                                               
shrimp.  The  association is involved in  fisheries management at                                                               
the state,  federal and international  levels.  The  ALFA mission                                                               
is  to   promote  sustainable  fisheries  and   thriving  fishing                                                               
communities through policy  advocacy, collaborative research, and                                                               
the young fishermen's initiative.                                                                                               
11:51:11 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. BEHNKEN  focusing on collaborative research,  she said ALFA's                                                               
fishery conservation  network was  formed to  empower stewardship                                                               
innovation through  continuous research  and collaboration.   The                                                               
fishery conservation measures  combine the problem-solving genius                                                               
of  fishermen  with  the  rigors   of  science,  which  includes:                                                               
innovative   solutions   that   improve  resource   and   fishery                                                               
viability;   sharing  data,   mentoring   young  fishermen;   and                                                               
increasing  the viability  of small-boat  fishermen to  keep them                                                               
competitive.    A number  of  fishery  conservation projects  are                                                               
ongoing,   which  include:     rockfish   reporting,  bathymetric                                                               
mapping, electronic  monitoring, fleet  fuel efficiency,  and the                                                               
Southeast Alaska  sperm whale avoidance project  to reduce marine                                                               
mammal depredation on longline gear.                                                                                            
11:52:41 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. BEHNKEN said  that salmon and halibut are  target species for                                                               
the  fleet,  but  the  management of  rockfish  bycatch  poses  a                                                               
concern;  although it's  an allowable  catch with  specific caps.                                                               
Thus,  in 2009  the Alaska  Board of  Fisheries (BOF)  challenged                                                               
commercial  and  charter fishermen  to  voluntarily  unite in  an                                                               
effort  to avoid  rockfish bycatch.   Rockfish  are a  long-lived                                                               
species,  up to  120 years,  and are  slow to  recover when  over                                                               
fished.  Overfishing  has triggered fishery closures  on the west                                                               
coast of British Columbia (BC).   The ALFA fleet proactively took                                                               
steps  to ensure  the health  of the  rockfish stock  by adopting                                                               
voluntary  measures.   The  association  asked  the fishermen  to                                                               
provide  rockfish bycatch  information via  fish ticket/log  book                                                               
reports, and the  data has provided useful maps of  where the hot                                                               
spots  exist in  the fishery.   The  analysis of  the information                                                               
allowed  the  fishermen  to  avoid hot  spots  and  minimize  the                                                               
bycatch.   She  provided illustrations  of the  maps used  by the                                                               
fleet captains, which are detailed  with specific information for                                                               
catch  avoidance.   [The color  coded maps  are available  in the                                                               
committee   handout,   titled    "Alaska   Longline   FISHERMEN'S                                                               
ASSOCIATION," pages  9-16, and  include the  bathymetric charts.]                                                               
The  maps  are  based  on the  seafloor  structure,  taking  into                                                               
consideration temperature changes, and  other variables.  The log                                                               
book data  and bathymetric mapping provides  fishermen with tools                                                               
to  visualize benthic  structure, control  rockfish bycatch,  and                                                               
improve  fishing  efficiency.    The vessels  must  purchase  the                                                               
appropriate  software to  take advantage  of the  contour mapping                                                               
for effective fishing.  Finishing,  she said that in three years,                                                               
members  have  reduced rockfish  bycatch  by  20 percent  in  the                                                               
halibut  fishery and  6 percent  in the  sablefish fishery.   The                                                               
current focus  is to  maintain rockfish bycatch  at or  below the                                                               
permitted levels  and at  this time,  with the  available mapping                                                               
tools, the rockfish stocks are considered to be healthy.                                                                        
12:00:40 PM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  STUTES  thanked  the   presenters  and  solicited  written                                                               
questions  from  committee  members   for  distribution  to,  and                                                               
responses from, the participants.                                                                                               
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Special  Committee on  Fisheries meeting  was adjourned  at 12:00                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Bycatch presentation - list of presenters.pdf HFSH 3/9/2017 10:00:00 AM
NMFS Merrill Presentation.pdf HFSH 3/9/2017 10:00:00 AM
NPFMC Oliver Witherell Presentation.pdf HFSH 3/9/2017 10:00:00 AM
DFG Cotten Hartill Presentation.pdf HFSH 3/9/2017 10:00:00 AM
Groundfish Forum Inc. Woodley Presentation.pdf HFSH 3/9/2017 10:00:00 AM
UCB Paine Presentation.pdf HFSH 3/9/2017 10:00:00 AM
At-Sea Processors Assoc. Madsen Presentation.pdf HFSH 3/9/2017 10:00:00 AM
AGDB Bonney Presentation.pdf HFSH 3/9/2017 10:00:00 AM
ALFA Behnken Presentation.pdf HFSH 3/9/2017 10:00:00 AM