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.


If approved by the Secretary of Commerce, the emergency order would lower the halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands by 33 percent in 2015.


The current projected harvest for Area 4CDE, the regulatory areas surrounding the Pribilof Islands, is just 370,000 pounds in 2015, a 71 percent cut from 1.29 million pounds in 2014. At that level of harvest, biologists with the International Pacific Halibut Commission, or IPHC, estimate that 93 percent of all halibut removals in the Bering Sea would be from bycatch, not the directed fishery.


Should the 33 percent cut in halibut bycatch be approved, the directed halibut fishery would have access to about 960,000 pounds.


Read the full story at the Alaska Journal of Commerce>>


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