Halibut stakeholders can weigh in on two issues of importance: halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea and management of the Pacific halibut fishery.

On bycatch, after six years of discussion,  the North Pacific Council is poised to have Bering Sea bottom trawlers targeting flatfish abide by the same rules as all other halibut users.

A fleet of 19 trawlers, all Seattle-based and including Alaska Native CDQ boats, have had a fixed cap on how many halibut they can take as bycatch, whereas yearly catches for Alaska commercial, sport, charter  and subsistence fishermen fluctuate according to the health of the halibut stock.  [Note letter from Dept. of Commerce below]

The trawl bycatch take is roughly four million pounds, which comes off the top of all other users. For example, halibut fishermen from Bering Sea communities were allowed less than 1.7 million pounds this year; and under three million pounds of halibut in the Western Gulf.

The public is asked to send written comments on the Council’s plans to rein in trawl halibut bycatch through October 25.

Ideas for new or amended halibut management proposals also are invited by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

The IPHC oversees the biology of the stock for the West Coast, British Columbia and Alaska and sets the annual halibut catch limits. An example of a new regulation proposed for this year saw the halibut fishery extended by one month to December 7.

The IPHC will give a first glimpse of possible catches for 2022 at its interim meeting, held electronically on November 30 and December 1.

The annual meeting is set for January 24-28 in Seattle. Send proposals 30 days in advance of both IPHC meetings.

For IPHC management proposals:  https://www.iphc.int/form/regulatory-proposal.  

For halibut bycatch comments:  https://www.regulations.gov enter [NOAA-NMFS-2021-0074] in the Search box and click on the Comment Now icon.  Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Alaska Region NMFS,  P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668  Attn: Records Office)