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Peltola Introduces Pair of Fish Bills to Restrict Bottom Trawling, Reduce Bycatch

  • Sockeye Salmon Swimming Upstream

  WASHINGTON – Today, Representative Mary Peltola (AK-AL) introduced a pair of bills to restrict bottom trawling and reduce bycatch – the bipartisan Bycatch Reduction and Mitigation Act and the Bottom Trawl Clarity Act.

“Since coming to Congress, I’ve worked to make fish and fishing policy the issue of national importance it deserves to be,” said Rep. Peltola. “I know fish, I know Alaska, and I know how to work with people in both parties to get stuff done.”

The Bycatch Reduction and Mitigation Act supports Alaskan fishermen working to reduce bycatch by:

  • Authorizing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Bycatch Reduction and Engineering Program (BREP) at $10 million for five years.
  • Establishing the Bycatch Mitigation Assistance Fund, to be administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and used to help fishermen and vessel owners purchase new gear or technology to reduce bycatch – such as camera systems, lights, and salmon excluders.

View full bill text HERE. Read a one pager on the legislation HERE. The bipartisan bill is cosponsored by Rep. Garrett Graves (R-LA-06) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA-02). 

The Bottom Trawl Clarity Act limits bottom trawling in vulnerable ocean by:

  • Mandating each Fisheries Management Council that permits the use of any bottom trawl gear to define the terms “substantial” versus “limited” bottom contact.
  • Requiring the designation of Bottom Trawl Zones, limiting the areas where gear that scrapes the seafloor is allowed.

View full bill text HERE. Read a one pager on the legislation HERE

“I work day in and day out to elevate this issue in DC and bring folks onside – whether it’s introducing them to their first taste of real smoked salmon or explaining that I have a “fish guy” on my staff!” continued Peltola. “Because of our work at the federal level, many in the fishing industry have already self-selected to use better practices, and we’ve already reduced bycatch by 50%. With these bills, we’re taking the next step.”

According to recent reports, under increased pressure of procedures, led at the federal level by Rep. Peltola, the pollock industry’s chum catch fell from 315,000 chums a year over the past decade to just 112,000 in 2023.

Support for Peltola’s legislation:

Linda Behnken, Executive Director, Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association: “These Bills Representative Peltola has introduced let Alaskans know that she is listening and responding to our concerns and will work with fishermen and the North Pacific Council to rebuild stocks, protect habitat, and safeguard our fishing communities. Alaska fishermen are fortunate to have Representative Peltola in our corner, working hard for the long-term.”

Joanna Slaney, Associate Vice President for Political Affairs, Environmental Defense Fund: “Consumers want access to fresh U.S. seafood for generations to come, but catching unintended marine life while fishing, called bycatch, can severely reduce populations of the unintended catch. Over time, bycatch leads to lower catch limits and even fishery closures, harming both fishermen and consumers. Rep. Peltola’s Bycatch Reduction and Mitigation Act would promote research and programs that can reduce bycatch, support sustainable fishing businesses and keep fresh seafood on our tables.”

Gabriel Prout, President of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers and 3rd generation Alaska commercial fisherman: "This legislation introduced by Representative Peltola represents her dedication to Alaskans in the fight for sustainable fishing practices. Mitigating bycatch and preserving habitat in the ocean ecosystem is key to making sure fishermen, communities, and families have access to marine resources for future generations of Alaskans to come. Her work to support gear innovation and to protect areas of Alaska’s waters from trawl impacts on ocean habitat and sensitive species is imperative to the survival of Alaska’s fisheries, like the iconic king crab. As scientists recently revealed, current fishing practices by the pelagic trawl fleet offers a distinction without a difference when it comes to comparing them to bottom trawlers. They are both fishing on the bottom, and both cover a massive footprint in Alaska’s offshore waters. This legislation is a step in the right direction to keep Alaska’s fisheries sustainable, to build resilience, and to help protect vulnerable habitats and species."

Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy, American Bird Conservancy :“Bycatch is a leading threat to seabirds, such as albatross, fulmars, and shearwaters. Rep. Peltola is helping to strengthen Alaskan fisheries and seabird populations by advancing bycatch reduction technology and better defining bottom trawling and where it can occur. For seabirds these actions will help conserve individuals and the wider ecosystem they depend on.”

Kevin Whitworth, Executive Director of the Kuskokwim Inter-Tribal Fish Commission: “Subsistence and commercial fisheries throughout Western Alaska have been shuttered in recent years. With record-low escapements and few (if any) opportunities for Indigenous and rural fishing families to harvest salmon, there is nothing more that our communities can sacrifice to protect salmon. It is high time some conservation measures are taken in fisheries occurring in the ocean space as well.  I am thankful that Rep. Peltola has taken action to balance the scales here.”  

Troy Arnold, Owner of B&J Sporting Goods: “As Alaska’s largest dedicated fishing tackle and bait shop, we’ve become an unofficial conversation hub on the subject of trawl and the state of our fisheries across Alaska. We regularly hear firsthand accounts of frustration, astonishment, and expressions of dismay over our deeply alarming and rapidly declining crab and salmon populations. The overwhelming consensus being, ‘Something must be done about trawlers’. We’re pleased to see that Alaskan voices on this critical state issue are being heard and responded to. We appreciate the work Representative Mary Peltola is doing to address our collective concerns by putting these bills forward. We look forward to continued momentum on this important subject and welcome positive, solutions minded and action-oriented change.”

Tim Bristol, Salmon State Executive Director: “These bills indicate that Representative Peltola is hearing the voices of Alaskans from across the political spectrum demanding the government rein in the incredible waste of marine life associated with trawling in the waters off of Alaska. We understand these pieces of legislation are the first steps towards reforming the way we manage federal waters off of Alaska and we hope to see similar action from Alaska’s senators soon.”

Amy Sparck, Executive Director at Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association: “For years now, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council has siphoned off the time and energy of many hundreds of Alaskans for little positive benefit. We sign up to testify at council meetings. We wait for hours — sometimes days — for our turn to speak. When we are finally allotted our three to five minutes, we tell the Council our stories: of families who are struggling in small remote communities, or driven out by the lack of job opportunity, access to fisheries, available affordable food, and ability to practice traditional ways of life. With mere decades under official fisheries management, compared to over 10,000 years of sustainable fishing in our indigenous communities,  our rivers are now in “crisis management” with zero opportunity for salmon for Alaskans. Balance must be restored and we are grateful to Representative Peltola for this legislation, which takes the brave first steps to do just that.”

Laureli Ivanoff, Executive Director for Native Peoples Action: “Federal trawl fisheries in Alaska's waters have had detrimental impact on our communities and the families that rely upon a healthy ecosystem to practice a way of life that remains central to who we are as Indigenous people. Reform and solutions are essential to honor the species that have experienced significant decline in the decades since commercial trawling began in our ocean waters. This legislation, proposed by Representative Peltola, finally acknowledges the decades of work and requests of a great many Alaska Native and tribal leaders who have called for meaningful change in the trawl fishery.”

Brooke, Woods of Rampart: “Baasee’ (thank you) Representative Mary Sattler Peltola for taking a strong position and creating the path forward for bycatch mitigation efforts, ocean protection and reduction of habitat degradation by bottom trawlers! A community on the upper Yukon River. I value the holistic approach to maintain a pristine and healthy ecosystem for many fisheries and fisherpeople. Again, thank you for listening to Alaskans!” 

Serena Fitka, Executive Director of the Yukon Drainage Fisheries Association: "In all the regulatory processes the decisions are being made based on economic value.Whereas, to the people who depend on them, salmon are considered invaluable. Not only does salmon provide a nutritional value, but it is ingrained in our culture and livelihood. This far exceeds the Western economic value and needs to be placed at the forefront of the decision-making process when regulations are put in place. We thank Representative Peltola for making this a priority.”

Nanci Morris Lyon, owner of Bear Trail Lodge in King Salmon, Alaska: “For generations in Bristol Bay we have watched commercial fishermen,  subsistence fishermen and sports fishermen enjoy incredible success in our king salmon fisheries.  In recent years, however, the fishery has fallen into a state of utter hopelessness. We no longer have a directed commercial fishery, subsistence users have reported not being able to get the kings they need, and sport fish limits have been slashed — or they’ve have had total closures imposed, creating devastating economic and social hardships for all users. We have asked for stronger enforcement for any and all bycatch to be imposed and finally, Representative Peltola has put forward legislative solutions that will do just that.”

Hunter McIntosh, CEO/President of The Boat Company: “The Boat Company is one of numerous small businesses that depend on Alaska's fisheries. Guests aboard our boats love sport fishing for halibut and salmon, and prefer high quality local seafood caught by Alaska's small boat commercial fishing fleets. Alaska fishermen of all types are facing restrictions to conserve salmon, halibut and crab while trawlers continue to waste our fish and shellfish as bycatch. These are welcome and long overdue changes proposed by Rep. Peltola and we are grateful to see them."