Reduction of Chinook and Chum Salmon Bycatch in The Bering Sea Pollock Fishery

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TITLE: Reduction of Chinook and Chum Salmon Bycatch in the Bering Sea Pollock Fishery

WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and

WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and

WHEREAS, Chinook salmon are the cornerstone for nutritional, cultural and economic survival of the Native Villages located on the Yukon and Kuskokwim River Drainages; and

WHEREAS, dramatically low Chinook runs and harvests in recent years have caused severe impacts to the people in our villages and the Chinook stocks upon which they depend; and

WHEREAS, for the first time in history, directed subsistence fisheries for Chinook salmon on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers were completely closed in 2014; and

WHEREAS, commercial Chinook salmon fisheries have been shut down for years on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers, and summer chum salmon fisheries have been restricted to protect Chinook salmon; and

WHEREAS, even State determined minimum amounts necessary for subsistence have not been met on the Yukon River since 2008 and on the Kuskokwim since 2011-2012; and

WHEREAS, Chinook salmon federal commercial fishery disasters were declared for the Yukon River for 1997, 1998, 2000-2002 and 2009-2012 and for the Kuskokwim for 2011-2012; and

WHEREAS, despite these restrictions the Yukon River Chinook salmon Canadian escapement goal has only been met in 3 out of the last 9 years and mean run size of Canadian-origin Chinook salmon (which comprise approximately 50% of the run) declined 45% for the period 1998-2010 compared to 1982?1997; and

WHEREAS, the Bering Sea Pollock fishery catches these same salmon as bycatch; catching over 122,000 wild Chinook salmon in 2007 and over 700,000 chum salmon in 2005; and

WHEREAS, according to the best available scientific information, as much as 73% of the Chinook salmon taken as bycatch are of Western Alaska origin; and

WHEREAS, the management measures adopted in April 2009 by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (the Council) provide for a 47,591 bycatch level in most years, with the potential for the fleet to reach 60,000 in two out of every seven years without consequence; and

WHEREAS, although Chinook bycatch has been below the cap in recent years, bycatch has averaged around 14,500 over the last several years demonstrating that the Bering Sea Pollock fleet can take their quota without approaching the 60,000 bycatch level they are allowed under the Council’s regulations; and

WHEREAS, under the current management regime there is nothing to prevent the Pollock fleet from catching as many as 60,000 Chinook salmon as bycatch next year even if subsistence fisheries remain closed and the Chinook stocks continue to decline; and

WHEREAS, in these times of severe Chinook salmon declines, all sources of mortality must be reduced and all harvesters of salmon must bear equitably in conserving Chinook salmon; and

WHEREAS, Resolution #REN-13-029 – Protecting Alaska Salmon for Subsistence was passed at NCAI 2013 Mid-Year Conference in Reno, NV, and calls for actions that significantly reduce Chinook salmon bycatch in all affected areas of the state; in both the Pollock and no Pollock trawl industry.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, this Resolution and Resolution #REN-13-029 shall be addressed concurrently to reduce Chinook salmon bycatch in Alaska; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI requests that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council act immediately to reduce the overall hard cap for Chinook bycatch from 60,000 to 20,000 and the performance standard from 47,591 to 14,500; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI requests that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council use their emergency regulatory authority to implement these changes; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI requests that the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Pollock industry act immediately to set a voluntary limit on Chinook salmon bycatch for 2015 not to exceed 14,500 Chinook and to take every action possible to reduce bycatch towards zero; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.



The foregoing resolution was adopted by the General Assembly at the 2014 Annual Session of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, October 26-31, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia, with a quorum present.