NOAA Fisheries seeks public input on plan to reduce halibut bycatch in Bering Sea
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposed rule that would reduce bycatch limits for Pacific halibut in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) groundfish fisheries.
Bycatch is also known as "prohibited species catch," or PSC. The proposed fishery management plan amendment, "Amendment 111," would reduce PSC limits for halibut in specific amounts in four groundfish sectors:
Amendment 80 sector (non-pollock trawl catcher/processors) by 25% to 1,745 mt;
BSAI trawl limited access sector (all non-Amendment 80 trawl fishery participants) by 15% to 745 mt;
BSAI non-trawl sector (primarily hook-and-line catcher/processors) by 15% to 710 mt; and
Community Development Quota Program (CDQ sector) by 20% to 315 mt.
Overall, the proposed rule would reduce halibut PSC limits from 4,426 mt to 3,515 mt, in the BSAI commercial groundfish fisheries, a 21-percent decrease.
In recent years, commercial halibut fishery catch limits have declined due to declining halibut exploitable biomass. In response to these declining commercial fishery catch limits, in June 2015, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended reducing the halibut bycatch limits in the BSAI groundfish fisheries.
This action is expected to provide additional harvest opportunity and revenue for the commercial halibut fishery in Area 4, which corresponds to the BSAI management area. It could also benefit the commercial, personal use, sport, and subsistence fisheries there and elsewhere in Alaska, British Columbia, and the Pacific Northwest as halibut migrate southward.
The public comment period on the proposed rule is open for 30 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.
Address comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, and identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA-NMFS-2015-0092. Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:
Electronic Submission: via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov
Mail: P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668
A copy of the proposed rule to implement Amendment 111 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands is available online at the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region website: http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/