Last night the Kodiak City Council and Borough Assembly met for a joint work session and discussed Gulf of Alaska trawl bycatch management at length.
In April the North Pacific Fishery Management Council will take up the bycatch issue, and try to develop some sort of management plan to help reduce it within the trawl industry. On Monday, the Kodiak Fisheries Work Group heard public comments, panel discussion and guest presentations on the matter and ultimately drafted a list of community goals that align with elements of the fishery management council’s framework motion on bycatch.
That drafted list was before the island’s two governing bodies last night, and Kodiak’s fisheries analyst, Heather McCarty, emphasized that the entire list is mere suggestions to the council for further analysis on certain issues.
“Everything in this outline is asking for analysis or continued analysis of the elements of the framework motion and any additional elements that you might add. It’s not expressing support for those elements.”
One element in the list for additional analysis drew significant public comment from various fishing sectors, and dealt with community fishing associations, or CFAs. Lee Woodard is a local trawler and said he was against CFAs, and suggested he wasn’t alone in feeling that way.
“Every fishermen that’s a trawler that’s invested into this, not one is in support of this. And there’s a reason for that consistency. It’s going to damage us. So moving forward with a program that’s trying to look out for those three basic interests, and is going to damage one of them, should be moved forward with extreme caution, if not just discounted completely.”
Alexus Kwachka said he felt CFAs were worth looking into, especially while there is still an opportunity to consider a variety of options for managing bycatch.
“I think that the thing that’s being missed here is that this is simply an ask for analysis. Everybody, this is not the end game. We’re asking for the council to consider this for another tool for the amendment package. So you know we will do this again, it will be uncomfortable, it will be unfriendly but this is simply an ask to look at it. It’s what it is. And where we go from there will be framed up with whatever the council chooses to do with it.”
Most assembly and council members seemed to agree that CFA’s were worth asking the council to look into, although the exact wording was debated. Council and assembly members weren’t sure whether or not CFAs, community entity ownerships, or some other community allocation phrasing should be used.
Regardless, Councilman John Whiddon said looking into the matter further could help resolve some of the debate about the general concept of CFAs, and ultimately help the council and assembly decide whether or not to support it in the future.
“And I want to recognize the folks that have spoken up and taken the time away from their jobs, I think it’s the least we can do as a community to see if we can ask for this analysis that the stakeholders, that the people directly involved with this, most directly involved with this can have an opportunity to see what the actual potential outcomes can be. So they can either continue down the path they’re already going or they can say no that might not be a bad idea. But without that comparative analysis I think we’re going to continue to have a debate.”
Based on last night’s joint work session, the assembly and council directed McCarty to draft a letter that encompasses the elements discussed. The hope is to have that letter return to both governing bodies before their next regular meetings so it can be approved by each and sent on to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council before its meeting on April 2.