Pacific Salmon: Ecology and Management of Western Alaska’s Populations

Salmon Bycatch Management in the Bering Sea Walleye Pollock Fishery: Threats and Opportunities for Western Alaska

Becca Robbins Gisclair


Abstract.—Chinook Oncorhynchus tshawytscha and chum O. keta salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands (BSAI) walleye pollock Theragra chalcogramma fishery has increased dramatically in recent years, reaching near record highs for both salmon species. This bycatch must either be thrown back into the water or saved for donation to food banks. Many of these salmon were bound for spawning streams in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (AYK) region of western Alaska, where the people of the AYK region await the salmon’s return to provide for subsistence and commercial fisheries, and to fulfil a vital cultural role. To examine the interplay between the pollock fishery and western Alaska salmon stocks, this paper reviews important characteristics of the pollock fishery, western Alaska salmon stock status and origins of salmon bycatch in the pollock fishery, legal requirements to reduce bycatch, past and present bycatch management measures, and discusses possibilities for change and improvement to ensure that salmon bycatch and the impacts to western Alaska salmon are reduced. Current management under the voluntary rolling hot spot system provides an adaptive approach to bycatch management, but has not reduced salmon bycatch overall. To be effective, this system needs to be combined with a total cap on salmon bycatch. Technical approaches to reduce salmon bycatch, such as salmon excluder devices, should be developed and implemented. Social devices such as labelling regimes for sustainably caught fish could also play a role in reducing salmon bycatch.