Chum Bycatch Tops 100,000 Fish

Friday, September 27 2013

Pollock B season is winding down quickly, with just a handful of vessels still out fishing. Almost all of the quotas has been taken -- but so have more than 116,000 chum salmon, as bycatch. That’s almost seven times as much as last year.

Karl Haflinger is president of Sea State, the organization that analyzes bycatch data. He says a lot of the chum bycatch came early on, as the fishery got underway in June.

"We saw more than one tow with more than a thousand chums in them, we knew there were a lot of chums out there," says Haflinger. "For us to only have 116,000 in at this point seem like a victory, so we’re really pleased by it."

Haflinger’s organization helped set up closures in the rolling hot spot closure program. Up to 2500 square miles of fishing grounds were closed for weeks at a time, mostly during August. Haflinger says that the fishing was good enough outside of the closed areas that the fleet was able bring in their quota before summer turned to fall.

And that’s important if the fleet wants to avoid king salmon. More chinook salmon appear on the grounds as the season stretches into September and October. Some 9,600 kings have been caught so far, compared to 8,300 last year.

If trawlers catch 60,000 kings, federal managers will shut down the pollock fishery.

Managers expect delivers all the way up to the end of the season, November 1. Haflinger says closures are relatively small right now, because large chum closures could push fisherman onto grounds that are heavily populated by chinook salmon.

"At this point in the season, we’re just trying to keep the worst of the chum areas closed, so we don’t impact their efforts to minimize chinook bycatch," says Haflinger.

According to the latest data, motherships are done fishing while the catcher-processors and shoreside processors have about 3 percent of their quota left.

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