NMFS has taken a reccomendation from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and tightened halibut bycatch limits for commercial groundfish fishermen in the Gulf of Alaska with plan set to start this year. The Amendment 95 plan will minize halibut bycatch for GOA groundfish fisheries which include pollock, Pacific cod, rockfish and other flatfish.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council took a step toward to reducing halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands at its February meeting, but did not foreshadow how it might do so. The council agreed unanimously Feb. 8 to ask for another draft of a Bering Sea halibut bycatch discussion paper. Halibut is taken as bycatch in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish fisheries. There are limits on halibut bycatch, but those were set at a time of higher abundance, and do not apply to every sector.

After extensive public testimony on the matter, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council agreed to take an initial step in possible changes to the existing vessel caps in halibut and sablefish fisheries.

Currently, any vessel in the halibut individual fishing quota, or IFQ, fishery is prevented from harvesting more than a certain portion of the statewide harvest. In 2013, that was 109,000 pounds.

Coastal Villages Region Fund (CVRF) says that the halibut quotas set in the Western Bering Sea this year are unfair. They have claimed that they are taking a larger reduction in quota than other CDQ associations, and are using the halibut issue as part of their campaign to overturn historic fish allocations among community development groups.

Southeast Alaska’s commercial halibut catch limit is going up.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission concluded its annual meeting Friday in Seattle and approved catch limits for Alaska, British Columbia, and the west coast of the U.S.

The combined commercial and charter catch for Southeast’s Area 2C will be 4.16 million pounds. That includes a commercial catch limit of 3,318,720 pounds, that’s an increase of about 11 percent from last year. Southeast is the only area that will see an increased catch from 2013.

Commercial and charter halibut fishermen on the Kenai Peninsula will see a reduced catch in 2014 under limits announced Friday at the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s annual meeting. However, Southeast Alaska will see an increase. The overall coastwide quota of 27.5 million pounds is slightly higher than the 24.5 million pounds suggested by the preliminary numbers, but represents an 11.4% decrease from the 31.03 million pound TAC in 2013.

This year’s halibut catches, season start and end dates and much more will be decided this week at the Ninetieth Annual Meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission in Seattle.

This year’s halibut catches, season start and end dates and much more will be decided this week at the Ninetieth Annual Meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission in Seattle.

A coast wide catch of just under 25 million pounds is being recommended – that’s a 21 percent

The National Marine Fisheries Service offered some management certainty for Alaskans interested in catching halibut when it announced that it would implement the new catch sharing plan in 2014. Under the plan, or CSP, commercial and charter operators in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska will have a combined catch limit next summer, with each sector taking a certain percentage of that pool of fish. The exact percentage each sector takes are different in Area 2C and Area 3A, or Southeast and the central Gulf of Alaska, respectively, and also vary with abundance.

The preliminary numbers for 2014 halibut catches would mean cuts for most of the west coast, including Alaska, compared to 2013, but it’s unclear if those numbers will become the real limits. Under the “blue-line” catch limit recommendations announced at the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s Dec. 4 and 5 meeting in Seattle, coastwide total removals would be about 36.4 million pounds, with a commercial halibut harvest of about 24.5 million pounds for 2014.