The Kodiak fisheries work group saw a presentation on a potential cooperative fishing management structure as part of its dialogue with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on the rationalization of the fishing industry.

The NPMC is one of eight regional councils established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1976 to manage fisheries in the 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

The work group discussed cooperatives and other items related to bycatch management at its July 9 session.

“The way that it’s structured now is, everybody races to a common pull-up quota and so that’s why we get to the race to fish and the intendant problems with that management structure,” Julie Bonney, director of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank, told the Mirror.

A new system would be based on a self-managed, cooperative style that adapts quickly to changing conditions.

The current “race to fish” regulatory system moves slowly and has little flexibility.

“In a regulatory structure, you cannot use fishermen’s knowledge and deal with conditions on the ground because you’re basing a regulation on some kind of historical time clip. As we know, fishing conditions always change. Under the cooperatives you are giving the ability to the cooperatives to manage the fisheries as long as you don’t exceed the two overarching principles, which is the actual quota and the bycatch quota,” Bonney said.

Regulations in the current system can take years to change versus weeks to months in a cooperative.

The members of the cooperative would join voluntarily and enter into civil contracts. Cooperative contracts can he amended with the agreement of members while regulatory changes take a minimum of two years within the existing process.

“We can self-regulate ourselves,” said Bonney. “We can shut the fishery down because everyone is signed on under civil contracts. Under those civil contracts we decide what or how we treat one another and how we react to fishing changes. It’s kind of like running a democracy, or a household, really.”

“Under the system we have now, one boat can do what they want and a group of harvesters have no ability to pull them in and make them be responsible,” she added.

There would be some amount of oversight by both the regulating body, the North Pacific Management Council, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Up ahead for the group is a meeting July 24 that will include Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries.

Contact Peter J. Mladineo at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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