Federal fisheries officials said Feb. 19 they have implemented a plan to tighten limits on halibut bycatch that can be caught in commercial groundfish fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska.
Amendment 95 to the fishery management plan is intended to minimize halibut bycatch in Gulf of Alaska groundfish fisheries to the extent practicable while preserving the potential for the full harvest of groundfish in the Gulf, NOAA Fisheries officials said.
Halibut bycatch refers to halibut caught by vessels targeting groundfish species, such as pollock, Pacific cod, rockfish and various flatfish species.
NOAA Fisheries sets annually limits to minimize halibut bycatch in federal groundfish fisheries in the Gulf. Those limits are divided annually and seasonally among different groundfish sectors. If a sector reaches its halibut bycatch limit before catching it allowed quota of groundfish, vessels participating in that sector must stop fishing for groundfish.
The two broad sectors that harvest groundfish in the Gulf who will be directly affected are vessels using hook-and-line gear and vessels using trawl gear. The hook-and-line gear sector is further divided into catcher vessels and catcher/processor vessels.