Charter rules set for halibut anglers
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted charter management rules for the guided anglers of Alaska’s coastline.
The actions follow several years of tightening restrictions for the fleet in the face of a declining biomass of legally sized halibut.
This year continued the trend.
In Area 2C, or Southeast Alaska, the Council recommended an array of management measures, all of which carry a one-fish bag limit. The options will depend on what actions the International Pacific Halibut Commission takes in January.
The joint U.S.-Canada commission that sets halibut allocations came up with a recommended number, or blue line, during its interim meeting in November. The charter options will depend on whether the commission adopts the blue line or sets allocations less or greater than that number.
If the halibut charter allocation is at the Blue Line, Area 2C will have a reverse slot limit of one fish of 40 inches or less or one longer than 80 inches, a two-inch loss from last year’s management set, with an annual limit of three halibut with a recording requirement. If below the blue line, there will be an annual limit of three fish and a reverse slot limit with a maximum size limit of 80 inches.
If above the blue line, there will be a reverse slot limit of less than 40 inches and over 80 inches with an annual limit of five fish.
In 3A, or Southcentral Alaska, anglers can take two fish per day a two fish bag limit with a maximum size limit of one fish of 28 inches, one inch less than last year. Anglers can take four fish per year, the same as last year. Wednesdays will be closed all year.
The council also adopted a rolling closure of Tuesday in addition to the mandatory Wednesday closures. Between late June and early August, if the projected charter halibut harvest in Southcentral Alaska is over certain projections, managers will close as many as eight Tuesdays to charter anglers. Guided anglers in Southcentral Alaska went over their allocation by 8 percent in 2016.
The council adopted the catch limits for groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, dropping the limits for the two largest harvests in the North Pacific.
Groundfish — which includes pollock, Pacific cod and flatfish — makes the bulk of the volume pulled from the federal waters off Alaska’s coast. Harvest quotas totaling two million metric tons of those species are set each year in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands fisheries.
Pollock, the largest groundfish harvest and the greatest volume of North Pacific fisheries landings, will maintain a relatively unchanged 1.35 million metric tons in the Eastern Bering Sea.
Pacific cod, the second most voluminous species in the groundfish fishery, took another cut after moving from 240,000 metric tons in 2015 to 238,680 metric tons in 2016. For 2017, the BSAI Pacific cod harvest will be 223,704 metric tons.
Some of that tonnage will be made up for with other species.
Atka mackerel will increase from 55,000 metric tons to 65,000 metric tons in the Bering Sea.
Arrowtooth flounder maintained a 14,000 metric ton limit, same as in 2016.
Northern rock sole dropped 10,000 metric tons from last year, from 57,100 metric tons in 2016 to 47,100 metric tons this year.
Yellowfin sole increased limits from 144,000 metric tons in 2016 to 154,00 metric tons in 2017. Flathead sole went from 21,000 metric tons to 14,500 metric tons.
In the Gulf of Alaska, groundfish harvest limits dropped from 727,688 metrics tons to 667,877 metric tons.
However, pollock quota took a larger hit in the Gulf of Alaska, moving from 248,000 metric tons to 199,000 metric tons. This follows a season where Gulf of Alaska pollock fishermen only harvested 175,000 metric tons of their harvest limit.
The pattern followed suit in the Gulf of Alaska, where the TAC dropped 10,000 metric tons from 98,600 metric tons to 88,300 metrics tons.
DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected].