Bradley Harris and Carwyn Hammond Test Strategies To Reduce Trawl Bycatch, Habitat Impact


AFS Members Bradley Harris and Carwyn Hammond

Much of the conservation effort is done in line with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which, among other things, establishes essential fish habitats and mandates that harvests remain sustainable. “It also says the act of harvesting can’t damage core components of the habitat that fish need,” Brad Harris, a professor at Alaska Pacific University and directs the fisheries aquatic science and technology lab, said. “And the sense is that maybe you’re not over-fishing, but the way that you’re fishing might actually damage the productivity of the system. And so it requires that there’s a process in place that minimizes these adverse effects.” Harris says there’s really only three ways to minimize those adverse effects. “You can stop fishing or fish less; you can fish somewhere else – you can close an area; or you can change how you fish,” Harris said. In Alaska, especially, the first two options aren’t viable. So, scientists are concentrating on the third option – changing how you fish. Ideally, the pollock trawl fleet fishes pelagically – meaning in the water column above the sea floor, but, according to Carwyn Hammond, who is with the conservation engineering group at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, sometimes that’s not where the fish are. “There are times where, you know, you’ve got these beautiful schools of pollock that are in the water column and you can fish pelagically, but then there’s times those pollock aggregate on or near the sea floor and they do have to have a certain amount of contact in order to catch those fish,” Hammond said. But, the more contact the net has with the sea floor, the more…click to read more.