One of the 16 Seattle-based boats that make up the Amendment 80 fleet that targets flatfish in the Bering Sea

Fall is the busiest time for fish meetings and while all are being done remotely due to Covid concerns, there is one plus: that those who normally could not attend can now tune in live.

Today is the final day of the state Board of Fisheries work session when they will decide how to reschedule meetings to address Prince William Sound, Southeast, statewide shellfish issues and hatcheries.

The board will take up a slate of 275 proposals on subsistence, commercial, sport and personal use fisheries. The question is when.

Instead of this winter, the meeting will occur sometime next year. That brings its own set of new issues. Glenn Haight is board director –

“If we said we were going to do it all during the state’s next fiscal year that would be a tremendous amount of work for the board, staff, advisory committees, the public – not to mention having adequate budget to accomplish all that.”  

Postponing to next year also butts up against the next Fish Board meeting cycle: Bristol Bay and the Arctic.

Halibut bycatch is dominating the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, also meeting remotely through today.

The Council oversees federal water fisheries, where the bulk of Alaska’s annual catch comes from. At issue is whether the council will finally rein in halibut bycatch taken by big Seattle-based, non-pollock bottom trawlers in the Bering Sea that target flounders.

In 2015 the Council reduced their halibut bycatch take by 21% to a fixed cap of nearly 4 million pounds. That means it stays the same no matter the ups and downs of the halibut  stock.  The catches for Alaska’s commercial, sport, charter  and subsistence halibut users all fluctuate based on the health of the resource, which is steadily declining.

The Council is finally poised to adopt a so called Abundance Based Management plan that would apply similar restrictions to the big trawl boats.

Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang holds a council seat and the legislative Bush Caucus has told him five years is long enough to kick the can.  Representatives Edgmon, Lincoln, Ortiz, Zulkosky and Kreiss-Tomkins told the Commissioner that Alaskans lose a portion of their halibut catch every year due to the nearly four million pounds that are taken and tossed by the Bering Sea flatfish trawlers.