Fisheries Council 'kicks the can' on Bering Sea conservation

OKs motion for more research on conserving Bering Sea Canyons

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council moved forward Monday with what it called a “progressive step” in the issue of preserving the Bering Sea Canyons.

The council heard public testimony that ended with a motion to further research steps to conserve the Bering Sea and its canyons, a motion most advocates for preservation called “kicking the can” forward.

“It sounds like they’re looking for a way to develop more scientific data, to kick the can down the road, to develop alternative kinds of preservation, if any, or carry on with the status quo,” said George Pletnikoff of Greenpeace and the Alaska Intertribal Council.

The term “acceptable level of norm” was tossed around by the council in the proceedings that led to the request for further data mining to eventually establish a Fishery Ecosystem Plan. The “acceptable level of norm” applied to the corals in the sea that are being dredged by the trawling of fisheries.

Advocates sought more restrictions for fisheries and designated untouched areas that could be used as a control in determining the long-term effects of trawling and the time it will take for those damaged ecosystems to recover.

“We do not know the full effect of commercial fishing on the environment,” said Jackie Dragon, senior oceans campaigner for Greenpeace, the organization that led the charge for action with more than 100,000 submitted testimonies for change and regulation in the Bering Sea.

The council was wary of moving forward with anything more than just further research while considering the Bering Sea as a whole and not just singling out portions such as the canyons.

Specified in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program will continue to conduct research on corals and the way they’re surveyed in hopes of creating a FEP.

Art Ivanoff of the Southern Norton Sand Fish and Game Advisory Commission said, “we are putting our faith in the council with the hopes of a Fishery Ecosystem Plan.”

Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.

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