Council acts on halibut guide loophole

SEATTLE – Halibut guides and grenadiers will see management changes in coming years under action taken at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s February meeting.

The council took final action to define a sportfishing guide at its February meeting, but a new regulation likely won’t be implemented until the 2015 fishing season, at the earliest.

Grenadiers were added to the fishery management plans as an ecosystem component in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and the Gulf of Alaska, which means catch reporting will be required and retention will be limited — also likely not until 2015. Grenadiers are a long-lived, deepwater flatfish that grow to less than a foot long.

The council’s Feb. 6 action on guides more closely aligns the state and federal definitions.

Under the new definition, a sport fishing guide does not have to be on board the same vessel as the person they are assisting, but must accompany or physically direct the angler during part of the charter trip for compensation.

That means that anglers on one boat, receiving assistance from a guide on another boat, could be counted as charter clients — and are subject to charter regulations, rather than the more liberal unguided angler limits.

This summer, unguided anglers will be able to catch two halibut of any size per day, while charter clients can catch two with one limited to 29 inches or less when fishing out of Southcentral and Kodiak ports, and one fish either less than 45 inches or longer than 76 inches per day when fishing out of Southeast Alaska ports.

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