Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Halibut Workshop Slated for April 24-25 in Seattle

A workshop on the methodology and accuracy of the estimation of halibut bycatch is set for April 24-25 in Seattle, to gather more information in advance of final action by federal fisheries managers in June at Kodiak on Gulf of Alaska halibut prohibited species catch.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is expected to take action at that meeting to reduce the prohibited species catch limit.

The workshop is a collaborative effort of the council and the International Pacific Halibut Commission. It will broadcast over an Internet website, with presentations for viewing and audio of the entire session, said Bruce Leaman, executive director of the IPHC.

The workshop was prompted by testimony taken by the NPFMC at its June 2011 meeting in Nome from six people who identified themselves as the “halibut workgroup.”

They included Lori Swanson, executive director of the Groundfish Forum; John Gruver, intercoop manager, United Catcher Boats; Stephanie Madsen, executive director, At-Sea Processors Association; Heather McCarty, a fisheries consultant whose clients include the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association; Paul MacGregor, an attorney whose clients include the At-Sea Processors Association, and Julie Bonney, owner of the Groundfish Data Bank. McCarty is the wife of Jim Balsiger, an IPHC commissioner and regional administrator for Alaska fisheries for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

At the conclusion of that meeting, the council directed staff to send a letter to the IPHC requesting cooperation and assistance with a halibut migration and stock assessment review workshop.

The workshop is to include short summary presentations from agency science staffs and invited industry science representatives, with a scientific panel to be charged with providing a review of the discussion and its findings.

The council is evaluating proposed reductions to the halibut prohibited species catch limits for trawl/longline fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska.

Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, said she is looking forward to a productive review of IPHC stock assessment and migration processes and data. “There is an idea in the trawl industry that if they review the IPHC models they will find something inappropriate,” she said. “All of us want to make sure we have the best possible science. If new ways come to light to view, the IPHC and commissioners will be open to that.”

Background information on the workshop and more details on topics to be discussed are on the NPFMC website at

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