Fishermen in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska are tossing back millions of kilograms of dead halibut they’ve caught unintentionally while scooping up other stocks.
The long-time practice, known as bycatch, has become the focus of intense scrutiny in Alaska and will be the subject of debate at a meeting at month’s end of the International Pacific Halibut Commission in Vancouver.
Some blame government regulations that forbid fishermen from keeping bycatch, others say it’s because of fish sorting-and-recording methods, and others point to Alaska’s failure to follow the lead of B.C., Washington, Oregon and California.
Chris Oliver, executive director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, one of two U.S. agencies that manages the Alaskan fishery, said the public shouldn’t forget the market.
“Yes, it’s a lot of halibut thrown over.” he said. “But again, you know, it supports a two-million-metric-ton groundfish fishery worth billions of dollars to this U.S. economy. In fairness, yes, there’s a lot of wastage.”
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