NPFMC meets Feb. 5

The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council is preparing for its 237th plenary meeting beginning Monday, Feb. 5, continuing through Feb. 12.

The meeting does not have a “huge agenda,” according to Council member Buck Laukitis, but there are some interesting topics.

One is an exploratory discussion paper detailing the increase of Pacific cod and opilio crab into Arctic waters.

“What we found out this summer, after a couple of years of the warmest water temperatures ever recorded, they did a (far) northern survey, and found… a 6,000-percent increase in Pacific cod, a big increase in pollock, and we know there’s a bunch of crab up there,” Laukitis said.

He added that in general, there are fishing plans for the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, and while there is a plan for the Arctic, it basically says there will be no fishing.

However, the Magnuson-Stevens Act states that if Arctic commercial fishing is ever allowed, it will have a Community Development Quota of at least 10 percent.

He stressed that any fishing plans would have a slow, deliberative process based on science.

Other agenda items include a meeting of the IFQ committee, which Laukitis chairs. At the committee’s last meeting, the Council requested that they concentrate on generating proposals about how to advance the original objective of promoting an owner-operated fleet.

Topics center around the cost of entry, the next generation, the ability to buy in, and rural access. The proposals are coming from committee members, and Laukitis said they have done some good work, and he was optimistic that some would rise to the top.

He said that 23 years into the program, over 70 percent of the original recipients are in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s, a phenomenon known as “graying of the fleet.” People are less and less likely to get their own boats.

According to one paper being prepared for the committee, that has led to an increase in emergency medical transfer abuse, and that hired master use has gone up every year. It’s a problem the council has tried to address many times with no success.

“We’re going to try to clean that up,” Laukitis said.

Meeting information, including the agenda and public comments, is available at www.npfmc.org/, and papers are updated as they become available.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.

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