Yukon salmon group protests bycatch quotas

The commercial Bering Sea pollock fishery should be shut down if even one Yukon River chinook salmon is scooped up by its nets, the Yukon salmon sub-committee chair says.

The commercial Bering Sea pollock fishery should be shut down if even one Yukon River chinook salmon is scooped up by its nets, the Yukon salmon sub-committee chair says.

Earlier this week, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council met in Alaska and voted to limit the annual salmon bycatch by the pollock fishery to 60,000.

Although that's more than the 10-year average, it's less than the 120,000 chinook killed by the pollock fishery in 2007.

Carl Sidney, who chairs the Yukon group established under the land claim agreement to conserve declining salmon stocks, said if even one salmon is killed the pollock fishery should be shut down.

"It should be at zero — absolutely no bycatch," Sidney told CBC News this week.  

The salmon of the Yukon River, which run through the Yukon and Alaska before reaching the Bering Sea, are an important source of food and money for residents in both jurisdictions.

Canada and the United States have a treaty to manage the international salmon stocks.

Although Sidney's committee wanted to give the council its views on the bycatch at this week's meeting, but the Department of Fisheries and Oceans told him his group could not take on a political issue of such international magnitude.

Sidney said the committee is getting a legal opinion.

"We have an obligation under the umbrella final agreement to be there and to voice our concerns about the salmon," he said.

The bycatch recommendations still need approval from the U.S. government before taking effect in 2011.

Pollock are used to make products such as fish sticks and fishburgers.