Friday, February 26, 2010

Hold that BiOp

Alaska's groundfish industry had been anticipating next Monday with considerable dread.

That was the day the National Marine Fisheries Service was supposed to unveil a new biological opinion (BiOp) potentially calling for further restrictions to the pollock, cod and Atka mackerel fisheries as a way to preserve food fish for endangered Steller sea lions.

Tonight, however, comes word that the long-awaited BiOp is on hold.

A friend passed along this update from Chris Oliver, executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council:

Hi all —

I just spoke with Doug Mecum and the release of the draft BiOp has been delayed. Not sure how long, but at least a few weeks. There is still a chance the Council can review it at our April meeting, so for the moment it is still tentatively on the April agenda. Not sure how that relates to potential Committee review/involvement, but we at least will get an update in April, if not the BiOp itself. I think action from that point depends on what the BiOp says, and whether there are 'surgical solutions' for the near term. It is also possible it will not be done in time for the April meeting, but we will see how that plays out. For the moment it seems that a meeting of the SSLMC March 9-11 is unnecessary and should be cancelled. That is what I know today.

— Chris

Doug Mecum, FYI, is the acting NMFS administrator for Alaska.

Also, SSLMC refers to the council's Steller Sea Lion Mitigation Committee.

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