An emergency measure to help northern Bering Sea halibut fishermen was defeated at last week's North Pacific Fishery Management Council, in a vote split along regional lines with all the Alaska representatives supporting the measure, which failed by a 5-5 tie vote.
The measure would have transferred halibut bycatch quotas from pollock trawlers to hook-and-line halibut fishermen. It was vigorously opposed by representatives of pollock factory trawlers and onshore catcher boats.

Editor's note: This story has been updated and corrected. Corrected text is indicated with strikethrough and new text is in bold.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council passed tighter restrictions for the 2015 charter halibut fisheries in Southeast and the central Gulf of Alaska.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted unanimously to approve the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska groundfish allocations for 2015.

Bering Sea quotas

The Eastern Bering Sea pollock total allowable catch, or TAC, for 2015 will be 1.325 million pounds, a 4.4 percent increase from 2014’s 1.267 million pound allocation.

Bering Sea Pacific cod will be allotted 246,822 metric tons, down only 75 metric tons from the 2014 TAC.

With one council member absent, an emergency action proposal to reduce Bering Sea halibut bycatch limits for 2015 failed on a tie vote by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council Dec. 13.

The failed motion, introduced by council member Duncan Fields of Kodiak, would have lowered the 2015 Bering Sea halibut bycatch limit by 33 percent from the current limit of more than 10 million pounds allocated between the pollock and bottom trawl fleets.

Concerns over the fate of the directed halibut fishery in the Pribilof Islands prompted lengthy discussion during the December meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage.

Council member Duncan Fields of Kodiak introduced a motion for emergency regulation to reduce the 2015 BSAI halibut bycatch allocation by 33 percent, out of concern for harvesters in areas C, D and E, saying that to avoid such emergency action would be shirking the council’s responsibility for fisheries management.

The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council passed measures on Thursday for the 2015 charter halibut fisheries in Gulf of Alaska sections 2C and 3A.

The changes reflect the decline in halibut stock over the last decade and attempt to take pressure off the species. In 2013 and 2014, both area 2C and area 3A exceeded their allocations for halibut.

A struggle in Alaska over shrinking supplies of halibut is threatening the iconic centerpiece fish in favor of cheaper exports, fast-food fillets and fish sticks.

If expected cuts are made in January, halibut fishing could be over in the Bering Sea west of Alaska, the source of one-sixth of halibut caught in the United States. That catch includes most of the frozen supply that sustains restaurants, food-service companies and retail stores nationwide, such as Costco and Whole Foods.

Seattle seafood company Trident Seafood Corporation has signed a letter of intent to buy the assets of Kodiak's Western Alaska Fisheries. The transaction will be finalized Dec. 31, 2014.

Trident controls harvesting, processing, and marketing. Western Alaska Fisheries assets include a Kodiak processing plant for cod, salmon, and pollock among other species.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is conducting a test fishery for walleye pollock using seine gear that starts today and runs through February.

The 2014 charter halibut catch exceeded the allocations in both Southeast and Southcentral despite projections last winter that the management measures would keep anglers within the limits for each area.