Peltola: National Standards for NMFS need overhaul

Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, is calling for the overhaul of National Standards of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to make the entire system pro-fish. 

“In Alaska fishing is our way of life,” Peltola said on Sept. 21, in the wake of NOAA completing a public comment period for its notice of proposed rulemaking to update those standards, which are the principles governing fisheries management decisions nationwide. 

The standards were last updated in 2016, prior to significant population crashes among key marine species in Alaska, including salmon and crab.   

“The oceans and freshwater habitats are continually changing, now more than ever,” Peltola said. “King crab, snow crab and Yukon River salmon fisheries collapsed last year, and in the Norton Sound, crab pots are coming up filled with cod instead of crab. For fisheries management to succeed, the tools fisheries managers and councils use to make decisions must change and adapt. We need to overhaul our entire system to be pro-fish. That’s not just a slogan—it’s a mission statement, and it begins with the National Standards.” 

Peltola urged revisions to National Standards 4, 8 and 9 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. 

On National Standard 4, regarding allocations, Peltola said that the historical focus has been on properly allocating and managing commercial programs, which has created a situation where commercial users continue to fish their allocations and subsistence fishermen are left without food. “Allocations of bycatch must be managed in a way that still protects subsistence fishermen,” she said.  


Under National Standard 8, regarding communities, Peltola advocated for additional resources for fish surveys in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska to better account for how stocks are migrating and changing with the climate.  

Regarding National Standard 9, on bycatch, Peltola said she recognizes that a certain amount of bycatch is unavoidable in every fishery but noted that subsistence fishing for chum salmon was shut down along the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers.  

“Yet still there is no cap on chum bycatch for the trawl fleet,” she said. “While the North Pacific Fishery Management Council considered adopting chum salmon bycatch limits, the proposal was rejected after strong opposition from the pollock trawl industry.” 

Peltola noted that by June of 2023, the Bering Sea pollock trawl fleet caught 13,000 Chinook salmon as bycatch, while subsistence fishermen on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers continue to sacrifice their normal catch as the last line attempt to meet escapement goals. While some level of bycatch may be unavoidable in mixed-use fisheries such as the Bering Sea, bycatch from commercial users has a detrimental effect on upstream subsistence harvesting, she said. 

Peltola said she would also continue to work with Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, to protect fishermen in Alaska from illegal Russian and Chinese manipulation of the seafood market and to listen to Alaskans in taking every possible step to protect and rebuild these fisheries.