Groundfish closures possibility ahead

Public comments from a group of local trawlers compelled the Kodiak City Council to decide the possible closures which are designed to protect tanner crab and are on the agenda of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) when it meets Oct. 4-12 in Anchorage.

According to NPFMC several options are there, including closing three areas completely to trawl and pot gear. Other options would close the areas for part of the year, mandate gear modifications to reduce crab bycatch, or require vessels carry observers 100 percent of the time when fishing in the three areas. The areas are due east of Kodiak and Afognak Island.

Walter N skipper Chandler Johnson said the closures would hurt the local economy and would not reduce crab bycatch. He explained when one force trawlers to fish in areas with less fish concentration, which this would do, it is going to increase bycatch. The Kodiak-based Alaska White Fish Trawler Association favors delaying the closures and wants more study on the economic impacts of the closures.

But council members Terry Haines and John Whiddon were cautious about asking for a delay because it might favor trawlers at the expense of other gear types. Haines said that there should be a full debate over the issue before filing any official announcement. Whiddon said the city was learning about the issue late and should take the time to consider the different alternatives outlined by NPFMC.