KODIAK -- The North Pacific Fishery Management Council meets this week in Kodiak, drawing hundreds interested in the decisions to be made over some of the world's largest fisheries.
The NPFMC oversees management in waters of the 900,000-square-mile Exclusive Economic Zone that includes the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.
The council has 11 voting members, including six from Alaska, three from Washington, one from Oregon, and a federal representative, the Alaska Regional Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Species under the council's purview include cod, pollock, flatfish, mackerel, sablefish, and rockfish species harvested mainly by trawlers, longliners and pot fishermen
The council faces a packed agenda. One item of critical interest is how, when and where fisheries next year will be conducted in the face of continuing restrictions and emergency regulations designed to protect Steller sea lions.
To respond to recommendations made last year by federal fishery managers, a "reasonable and prudent alternatives" committee was created by the council to give special consideration to small boats in determining which areas would be open to fishing. The committee is also adding its suggestions to an experimental design to allow for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of sea lion protection measures.
Committee member Matt Moir said the 20-member group will recommend a continuing patchwork approach that would apply to fisheries for pollock, cod and mackerel in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska.
Moir said the committee also strongly urges NMFS to appoint a new sea lion recovery team at the federal level as soon as possible, write and updated recovery plan, and move forward with a process to re-evaluate critical habitat designation.
The council will identify a final set of alternatives based on the committee recommendations for further analysis over the summer.
Also, the council will review a discussion paper on a proposal by the Gulf Coast Community Coalition to allow communities to purchase commercial halibut IFQs.
The council will also address Bering Sea crab fisheries.