NOAA Fisheries issued a final rule to implement a new program that will improve management of the Pacific cod trawl fishery. Amendment 122 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Management Area allocates Pacific cod harvest quota share to qualifying groundfish License Limitation Program (LLP) license holders and qualifying processors. It requires participants to form cooperatives to harvest the quota. A groundfish LLP license authorizes a vessel to participate in a BSAI groundfish fishery in accordance with specific stipulations. With some limited exceptions, the LLP requires that each vessel that participates in federally managed groundfish fisheries off Alaska be designated on a groundfish LLP license. The Amendment 122 regulations are effective on September 7, 2023. Fishing under the Pacific cod Trawl Cooperative (PCTC) Program is scheduled to start on January 20, 2024.
It is a limited access privilege program for the harvest of Pacific cod in the BSAI trawl catcher vessel sector. This is the first catch share program implemented in Alaska since 2012.
Over the last several years, total allowable catch for Pacific cod in the BSAI management area has steadily decreased. The pace of the trawl catcher vessel fishery has contributed to an increasingly shorter season. This has decreased the value of the fishery and negatively impacted all fishery participants (vessels, motherships, shoreside processors, and communities). It also discourages fishing practices that can minimize bycatch and threatens the sustained viability of the fishery.
The program was developed to improve the prosecution of the fishery, with the intent of:
- Promoting safety and stability in the harvesting and processing sectors
- Minimizing bycatch to the extent practicable
- Increasing the value of the fishery
- Providing for the sustained participation of fishery dependent communities
- Ensuring the sustainability and viability of the resource
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