The North Pacific Fishery Management Council meets this week at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, and the agenda is pretty heavy.
Here's a quick rundown:
Observer reform: The council is poised to take final action on a plan to restructure the observer program. Observers, of course, are those young biologists who ride along on commercial fishing boats to collect important data on what's caught, kept and tossed. Depending on what options the council chooses, program restructuring could mean two new classes of boats — halibut boats and groundfish boats under 60 feet long — will have to start carrying an observer part of the time. And vessel owners in most if not all Alaska fleets could face a fee of up to 2 percent of the dockside value of their catches to cover the cost of observers.
Kodiak crab protection: The council also is expected to take final action on restricting some areas off the east coast of Kodiak Island to protect bairdi Tanner crab stocks. The council could ban trawl and pot boats from the areas seasonally or year-round, or require them to carry observers more often to keep fishing there. As steady Deckboss visitors know, the killing or maiming of crab while in pursuit of groundfish is a touchy subject.
Steller sea lion verdict: With much anticipation, I'm sure, council members will hear the final word from the National Marine Fisheries Service on just how restrictive the western Aleutians cod and Atka mackerel fisheries are going to be come next year. As you'll recall, NMFS proposed extensive commercial fishing closures along the chain to protect the endangered Steller sea lion. The council at its August meeting suggested ways to reduce the closures. It'll be fascinating to see if NMFS bends a little. Either way, we could see litigation bust out over this one.
Farewell: A reception is planned for Friday evening to say so long to Denby Lloyd, who is retiring Dec. 1 as Alaska's fish and game commissioner and thus a member of the council.
Here's the agenda with all the times, dates and places for the council meeting and side gatherings.