Reduced GOA halibut bycatch limits proposed

Federal fisheries officials are seeking public input through Oct. 17 on a plan that would tighten limits on how much halibut bycatch can be harvested by the commercial groundfish fleet in the Gulf of Alaska.

The proposed fishery management plan amendment, Amendment 95, would minimize halibut bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska groundfish fisheries to the extent practicable, while preserving the potential for the full harvest of groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Sept. 17.

Halibut bycatch refers to halibut caught by vessels targeting groundfish, including pollock, Pacific cod, rockfish and various flatfish species.

NOAA Fisheries sets limits annually to minimize halibut bycatch in federal groundfish fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska. Those limits are divided annually and seasonally among different groundfish sectors. If a sector reaches its halibut bycatch limit before harvesting its allowable amount of groundfish, vessels participating in that sector must cease fishing for groundfish.

Two broad sectors that harvest groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska would be directly affected by the amendment: 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.

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