The state’s major fisheries (salmon, groundfish, halibut and crab) are managed by several different agencies of the state or federal government. Within each fishery, different entities are responsible for scientific research, regulatory enforcement, and policy/allocation. Each agency has similar goals, strategies, and methods, employing a precautionary approach to fisheries management.
Stocks Assessment and Quota Establishment
Every year, scientists from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the International Pacific Halibut Commission conduct and analyze research on the fisheries resources. In addition, research is conducted on the climatic, environmental, and socio-economic factors that affect the fisheries. These studies consider the effects of the ecosystem on the stock, and the effects of the stock and the fisheries on the ecosystem. Controlling the amount of fish harvested through quota establishment is key in preventing overfishing.
An important method is to restrict the amount of fish that can be caught, using either a pre-determined Total Allowable Catch (TAC) – set as a firm limit, beyond which fishing must stop, or escapement, in the case of spawning fish, in which a pre-determined number of fish are not caught but permitted to return to their home river to spawn. . Until those limits are reached, harvesting is limited and regulated in several ways.
- Time-and-area closures: These methods allow fishing during certain times or in certain
areas, but not in others
- Restrictions on size of boats: Certain fisheries have limits on the size of fishing boats
- Restrictions on type of fishing gear: Virtually every fishery has limitations on fishing
gear, such as the size, design, and use of each type of gear
- Gear prohibition: Certain gear types are completely prohibited, such as pelagic
longlines, sunken gillnets, and fish traps
- Alaska also limits the number of harvesters in a fishery through “license limitation” or “limited entry”
- Additionally, Alaska uses rationalization (also known as “rights-based” management), whichgrants ownership rights to a given fraction of an annual Total Allowable Catch, and “in-season” modification to adapt to the realities of the run, the weather, and other parameters.
- “Bycatch” means the unintended capture of non-target species, including other
fish species, marine mammals or sea birds
- Significant, effective bycatch reduction programs are enforced in all Alaska
- When a predetermined amount of a prohibited species is taken, that fishery is
closed, regardless of whether it has reached the Total Allowable Catch – a strong
incentive to “fish clean”
- All vessels fishing for Pacific cod or Alaska Pollock must participate in the National Marine Fisheries Service Vessel Monitoring System, which transmits each vessel’s location, by satellite, to the National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement (OLE)