The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted Friday to reduce halibut bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska by 15 percent, the maximum amount under consideration during its meeting here in Kodiak. The cuts to the trawl and longline fleets will be phased in over three years. The reduction passed on a 10-1 vote, with Dave Benson of Washington State dissenting.
Theresa Petersons is a commercial fisherman in Kodiak and works with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, and followed the deliberations closely.
The next step in the process is for the council to determine how to go about implementing the bycatch reductions. In the Bering Sea trawl fisheries the bycatch is largely salmon, and recently retention of the non-targeted fish has begun to be implemented for the benefit of food banks. But Peterson says it’s a slightly different situation in the Gulf of Alaska with halibut:
Over two-and-a-half days much of the testimony before the council urged a reduction of 15 percent. Huge cuts to both the commercial and charter halibut quotas in recent years prompted a strange bedfellow alliance among the traditionally competing user groups and generated much of the comments.
The cut of nearly 700,000 pounds will be made to the 4.5 million pound bycatch cap put in place nearly 25 years ago.
The council continues its meeting through tomorrow.
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