The Secretary of Commerce has approved a fishery management plan amendment to reduce halibut bycatch in four sectors of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish fisheries.

NOAA Fisheries anticipates the amendment will reduce the actual amount of halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands by approximately 361 metric tons compared to 2014. It may also provide additional harvest opportunities in the directed commercial, personal use, sport, and subsistence halibut fisheries.

In recent years, the International Pacific Halibut Commission — the joint U.S.-Canadian body charged with management of Pacific halibut — has determined that the exploitable biomass of halibut has declined, particularly in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. This decline has resulted in reductions to the catch limits for the directed commercial halibut fishery in Area 4, in particular Area 4 CDE in the eastern and northern Bering Sea.

Groundfish fisheries — which seek to catch species like pollock and yellowfin sole — regularly encounter halibut as bycatch during their fishing operations.

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