A lot has changed in Alaska since commercial vessels began fishing for halibut off the coastline in 1888, but in almost 130 years, halibut has remained a staple of the state’s fishing economy and culture. Along with salmon and crab, no species of fish captures the Alaska imagination and fills Alaska pocketbooks more than halibut.

JUNEAU -- Commercial fishermen who make their living in federal waters off Alaska are watching as Gov. Bill Walker prepares to announce a set of appointments to the board that manages the multibillion-dollar fishing industry in the North Pacific.

One of the principal roles of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is overseeing the massive, Seattle-based factory fishing vessels that catch and process lower-value groundfish like pollock, mackerel and sole.

Federal fisheries managers are slated to take final action in early April on the incidental harvest of Chinook and chum salmon in the Bering Sea pollock fishery.

Also on the agenda for the April 6-13 meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage are final action on Gulf of Alaska sablefish longline pots, an update on Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands salmon bycatch genetics, a discussion paper on Area 4A halibut retention in sablefish pots, and an initial review of observer coverage on small catcher processors.

What would you do if you lived hundreds of feet below the ocean surface? Where would you eat? When would you sleep? Where would you procreate? Julie Nielson is a PhD student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“I’m studying the movement of halibut in Glacier Bay,” Nielson said. “We’re trying to figure out if halibut leave Glacier Bay during the winter on spawning migrations and if they do, do they return the following summer?”

On Thursday, the two councils that control halibut fishing in the Bering Sea met to address a thorny debate over bycatch.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission -- which sets catch limits in waters stretching from Canada to the Pribilof Islands -- stopped into Seattle for a joint session with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

This week will reveal if Pacific halibut catches ratchet up slightly in some regions, as indicated earlier, or at least not be chopped. The International Pacific Halibut Commission is meeting in Vancouver through Friday – that’s when the harvests and season start and end dates will be announced. You can follow the halibut meetings live on the web.

Few fish have to swim through more red tape than the Pacific halibut.

Halibut has been governed by two regulatory bodies for more than 40 years, and 2015 will hopefully see an increase in mutual understanding between the two, as well as a welcome public display of cooperation.

Few fish have to swim through more red tape than the Pacific halibut.

Halibut has been governed by two regulatory bodies for more than 40 years, and 2015 will hopefully see an increase in mutual understanding between the two, as well as a welcome public display of cooperation.

Incidental catch of halibut in directed groundfish fisheries is likely to be the hot topic Jan. 26-30 when the International Pacific Halibut Commission holds its 91st annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.

NMFS issues a proposed rule to implement cost recovery fee programs for the Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) Program for groundfish and halibut, and three limited access privilege programs: The American Fisheries Act (AFA), Aleutian Islands Pollock, and Amendment 80 Programs.