Seawatch: NPFMC changes sablefish pot regs

Beginning as early as next season, fishermen targeting sablefish with pots in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands will be able to retain legal-sized halibut, provided the operator holds sufficient halibut Individual Fish Quota or Community Development Quota permits for the corresponding regulatory area.

The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council took final action on the proposal at their recent meeting.

The purpose of the action is to allow for more efficient harvest of the halibut resource by decreasing wastage of legal-size halibut discarded in the Bering Sea-Aleutian Islands (BSAI) sablefish pot fishery and to allow for the possibility of reduced whale depredation of halibut off hook-and-line gear.

Whale predation by both orca and sperm whales has caused substantial losses in both the halibut and sablefish longline fisheries in the BSAI area, and also in the Gulf of Alaska, and anecdotal evidence from long-time fishermen indicates it is increasing as older generations of whales pass the technique on to juveniles.

It is difficult to know just how many fish the whales are taking. Federal surveys put the sablefish losses at under 10 percent of the annual harvest; however, one study published in the journal PLOS One titled “Killer Whale Depredation and Associated Costs to Alaskan Sablefish, Pacific Halibut and Greenland Turbot Longliners” found losses of as much as 65 percent.

In spite of those figures, there was opposition to allowing pots to be used for sablefish, mostly from longliners who were concerned about gear conflicts. The Council action includes the following elements: an exemption to the 9-inch maximum width of the tunnel opening on pots; vessel monitoring system and logbook requirements for all vessels using pot gear to fish IFQ/CDQ; and, in the event that the overfishing limit for a shellfish or groundfish species is approached, regulations would allow the National Marine Fisheries Service to close IFQ fishing for halibut as necessary. Additionally, the Pribilof Islands Habitat Conservation Zone would be closed to all fishing with pot gear.

To the extent practicable, the Council has recommended that halibut fishermen in the BSAI interested in using pot gear under this action consult with crab fishery participants on appropriate crab escape mechanisms to minimize crab bycatch. The action still must be approved by the Secretary of Commerce, and no halibut may be retained out of pot gear until that time. The Council plans to review the effects of allowing retention of halibut in pot gear three years after implementation.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.

More in News

Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove poses for a photo on Jan. 9, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. The veteran Alaska legislator was passing through Homer while waiting to take the M/V Tustumena ferry to Kodiak. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Clem Tillion, PFD founder and former legislator, dies at 96

Tillion died Wedneday, Oct. 13, at Halibut Cove home.

Thunder Mountain High School on April 18.  Earlier this fall, vandalism including stolen soap dispensers and toilets clogged with foreign objects such as paper towel rolls were a problem at schools nationwide and in Juneau. But, principals say the local situation is improving. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
After brief surge, vandalism subsiding at local high schools

Principals say internet trends, stress likely behind incidents.

In this Jan. 8, 2020, photo Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, heads to a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington. An Alaska man faces federal charges after authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill Murkowski, according to court documents unsealed Wed., Oct. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite,File)
Delta Junction man faces charges over threatening Murkowski’s life

Authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill the senator.

Donna Aderhold recites the Homer City Council oath of office and is sworn in for duty at the city council meeting on Oct. 11. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
New council members sworn into duty Monday

Newly-elected Homer City Council members Shelly Erickson and Jason Davis and re-elected… Continue reading

Runners participate in boys varsity race at the Ted McKenney XC Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. The trails recently reported incidents of vandalism and theft. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Vandalism and theft reported at Tsalteshi Trails

One trail user reported stolen skis recently and multiple signs have been defaced.

At left Bonita Banks, RN, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) nurse at Homer Medical Center, and at right, Annie Garay, RN, Community Health Educator, pose for a photo at South Peninsula Hospital on Sept. 27, 2021, at Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
New hospital community health educator starts

Garay, a Homer raised nurse, came home to ride out COVID-19, wound up doing pandemic nursing.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Montessori school goes to universal indoor masking

As of Tuesday, eight KPBSD schools were operating with universal indoor masking for staff and students.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Crabbers look at cuts to quotas

Tanner, opilio crab quotas cut on top of cancellation of fall king crab fishery.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Judge sides with psychiatrists who alleged wrongful firing

Two psychiatrists said they were wrongfully fired when Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy took office.

Most Read