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Copper/Bering Districts

Last Update: 11/1/2013
For current sustainability information on this fishery visit the Marine Stewardship Council website.
Start Date: 
01/1999
Sustainability ProgressAction Progress
Gear: 
Certification Status: 
Volume: 
1-5k

Volume data of 5,034 metric tons is the annual average catch from 2002 – 2011. NPAFC provided catch volumes for Prince William Sound and the Copper/Bering Districts combined, and the catch proportion for each fishery was estimated using catches and fish weights from ADF&G area management reports (data from 2008-2012).

For current sustainability information on this fishery visit the Marine Stewardship Council website.

The Alaska salmon fisheries were some of the earliest fisheries to receive MSC certification, being first certified in December 2000. Since then, the fisheries were re-certified in October 2007 and again in November 2013. Four conservation groups filed an objection to the most recent certification effort, citing insufficient evaluation of harvest rates on depleted, non-Alaskan salmon stocks intercepted in Southeast Alaska fisheries. However, an independent adjudicator dismissed the objection.  The Units of Certification (UoCs; sub-components of the fishery that are individually evaluated) have varied among assessments, with the most recent assessment defining 14 units based on geographic area. Thirteen of the units were scored to pass certification, but the Prince William Sound (PWS) UoC is still under assessment, likely due to issues regarding hatchery production and the potential impacts on local wild stocks. Indeed, one of the most important fishery concerns is the accelerating release of hatchery pink and chum in Kodiak, PWS and Southeast Alaska (SEAK). Another issue is that some fisheries may affect stocks with low abundances that are designated as ‘stocks of concern,’ which are specified as ‘yield concern’ (escapement goals met but expected yields not met) or ‘management concern’ (escapement goals not met). Although the Alaska salmon fisheries benefit from the availability of high quality spawning habitat and a management system that closely monitors catches and escapements, there are still improvements to be made.

The Copper/Bering Districts are located in central Alaska immediately north of Yakutat and south and PWS.  The districts are within the PWS management area but are treated as a separate UoC due to their distinct geography and fishery. Sockeye and Chinook salmon from this region are among the earliest seasonally available commercial salmon and have established a high-value market as “Copper River salmon.” The lower-bound spawning escapement goals were met in most of the past nine years for sockeye, Chinook, and coho salmon. There are no stocks of concern in this area.

The Gulkana sockeye hatchery is the only commercial hatchery in the Copper/Bering Districts. It is a stream-side incubation facility that releases approximately 20 million sockeye fry per year into three lakes. About 10% of hatchery fish are marked, and marking data show that hatchery fish dominate sockeye catches during the latter part of the season. This is an integrated hatchery program, where the broodstock includes a high proportion of local wild fish so that genetic similarity between wild and hatchery stocks is maintained. In 2010, 57% of the sockeye salmon entering the Copper River District originated from upriver wild stock systems, 17% from wild stock systems in the Copper River delta, and 26% from the Gulkana Hatchery.  There is concern about the lack of information regarding the extent to which hatchery sockeye salmon stray to the wild spawning grounds.

Stakeholders:

Purse Seine Vessels Owners Association (PSVOA; fishery client), Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), Wild Salmon Center, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, David Suzuki Foundation, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, Wild Fish Conservancy, American Bird Conservancy, Sustainable Fisheries Partnerships, Pacific Salmon Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, Ecotrust, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Native Corporations involved in Alaska salmon fisheries:

Arctic Slope Native Association, Bering Straits Association, Northwest Alaska Native Association, Association of Village Council Presidents, Tanana Chiefs’ Conference, Cook Inlet Association, Bristol Bay Native Association, Aleut League, Chugach Native Association, Tlingit-Haida Central Council, Kodiak Area Native Association, Copper River Native Association

Update
November, 2013

The Alaska salmon fisheries were re-certified for a second time in November 2013, and the first surveillance audit will take place in 2014.

Assessment
November, 2013

The 2013 MSC Public Certification Report identified one issue in the Copper/Bering fishery that required special attention:

2013 Assessment - Log in or register to access this file.
2013 Action Plan - Log in or register to access this file.
Contacts: 
Intertek Moody Marine
Purse Seine Vessel Owners’ Association
Contact us if you have information regarding this fishery improvement project.