Coastal legislators support halibut bycatch cuts

The Alaska legislature's coastal representatives sent a letter to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council expressing support for 50 percent halibut bycatch cap reductions for the groundfish fleet in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

"Over the past decade," the legislators wrote, "more than 62 million pounds of halibut has been caught, killed, and discarded as bycatch in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands. During the same period, landings of halibut as the target species have declined from an already alarmingly small 52 percent of the total removals to only 34 percent of removals. This startling dynamic, in an ever worsening state, has continued for too long."

The letter was signed by Sens. Lyman Hoffman, Donny Olson, Dennis Egan, and Peter Micciche, along with Reps. Bryce Edgmon, Bob Herron, Neal Foster, Cathy Munoz, Paul Seaton, Dan Ortiz, Jonathon Kreiss-Tompkins, and Jim Colver. 

The North Pacific council voted on Feb. 8 to release an amended table of halibut bycatch reduction options for public review. The council will take final action on the reduction proposals in their June 2 meeting in Sitka.

The motion added 40 percent, 45 percent and 50 percent options to each of the originally proposed reductions and was part of a larger package of halibut bycatch reduction proposals and studies that received no action. It was introduced by council member Duncan Fields of Kodiak and passed with a 9-2 vote.

Directed halibut in the North Pacific is managed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Bycatch is managed by the North Pacific council. As the biomass of legally harvestable biomass in the North Pacific has declined, the allocations for the directed fishery have dipped to low levels as well, while the bycatch remained static. The Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish fleet now takes the the bulk of halibut removals.

11/12/2016 - 11:09am