NOAA Fisheries is being asked by the state of Alaska and representatives of the Pribilof Island community of Saint Paul to institute emergency action to lower halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea groundfish fisheries.

The request to Assistant Administrator of NOAA Fisheries Eileen Sobeck came in late December from Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, the city of Saint Paul, the Tribal government of Saint Paul and Tanadguix Corp., an Alaska Native village corporation.

NOAA Fisheries is being asked by the state of Alaska and representatives of the Pribilof Island community of Saint Paul to institute emergency action to lower halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea groundfish fisheries.

The request to Assistant Administrator of NOAA Fisheries Eileen Sobeck came in late December from Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, the city of Saint Paul, the Tribal government of Saint Paul and Tanadguix Corp., an Alaska Native village corporation.

The overall feeling at the meeting seemed to be discontent with a grain of salt. Many fishermen who attended voiced their frustration with the observer program in general. But, many also said that they understand what its purpose is.

That sentiment is nothing new to Martin Lefled, who works with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, based out of Seattle, and is the director of the observer program in Alaska for the federal fisheries. He says NMFS has received a lot of feedback and it’s listening.

The coming year should prove a lucrative year for Alaska fisheries, even in the face of the doom and gloom surrounding the chinook salmon declines and a sketchy halibut situation.

The largest volume fishery, pollock, and the most valuable fishery, salmon, both have positive forecasts and large projected harvests; escapements for Alaska’s iconic king salmon were largely achieved in 2014; and various regulatory bodies have a full schedule to deal with both hurting and flourishing stocks.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — After a motion failed at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council by a single vote with an Alaska delegate absent, another effort is underway to reduce halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea in the face of rapidly sinking catch limits for the directed fisheries.
Interim Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten and the other five Alaska members of the North Pacific council signed a letter to National Marine Fisheries Service Assistant Administrator Eileen Sobeck on Dec. 18 asking for an emergency reduction in Bering Sea halibut bycatch.

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

The changes approved Dec. 11 will retain the two-fish daily bag limit for the central Gulf, or Area 3A, fished out of Southcentral ports and Kodiak, with the first of any size and second not to exceed 29 inches while adding a new rule prohibiting trips on the Thursday of every week between June 15 and Aug. 31.

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.

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.