Staff of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council have begun working on a discussion paper for the council’s October meeting, exploring ways to index Bering Sea and Aleutian Island halibut prohibited species catch limits to a metric of halibut biomass.
The action comes in the wake of final action taken at the council’s June meeting in Sitka to reduce halibut PSC mortality limits in the BSAI groundfish fisheries overall from 4,426 metric tons to 3,515 metric tons, a 21 percent reduction. The council noted in its current newsletter that its decision was contentious, with some members considering that steeper reductions were warranted.
In addition, the council during its meeting in Sitka initiated three related actions.
The chair and executive director of the council are to evaluate ways to integrate the variety of halibut management and research activities currently underway, and develop a framework to improve coordination between the council and the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Council and agency staff, including the IPHC and representatives of state agencies serving on the council, are to be consulted.
The council requested both Amendment 80 cooperatives to provide halibut bycatch management plans for 2016 to the council at its December meeting in Anchorage, plans that will bring savings to levels below the hard cap. These are to include halibut avoidance practices on the grounds, increased communication between participating harvesters, sharing data for performance tracking, use and development of excluders, deck sorting, and more.
The council also initiated a discussion paper to examine options for community development quota entities to lease individual fishing quota for halibut without the IFQ owner on board in areas 4B and 4CDE, in years when there is low directed halibut harvest.