Bycatch Reduction the Result of Coordinated Effort


Jay Barrett/KMXT

There was a huge effort by commercial and charter fishermen from one end of the Gulf of Alaska to another to convince the North Pacific Fishery Management Council that bycatch of halibut needed to be reduced. Alaska Marine Conservation Council Kodiak Outreach Coordinator Theresa Peterson – who is also a commercial fisherman with halibut quota – says the call for bycatch reductions came from far and wide.

— (Halibut 1 June 12 18 sec "At least 35 different … that we have today.")

Shrinking populations of halibut over the years caused the International Pacific Halibut Commission to reduce allocations to both the charter and commercial fleets, yet bycatch levels in the trawl and hook-and-line fisheries had not been reduced for nearly 25 years. The cap has been about 4.4-million pounds since 1986, and the Council had before it cuts of 5, 10 or 15 percent. It voted 10-1 to go with a 15 percent reduction, which is about 700,000 pounds.

AMCC Executive Director Kelly Harrell said before the council voted that 15 percent was a good start:

— (Halibut 2 June 12 15 sec "We don’t think it’s quite … in the right direction.")

Tim Evers, a retired fishing guide in Kasilof said the cuts to bycatch were vital to fishermen who target halibut:

— (Halibut 3 June 12 15 sec "Any fish we can save in … reallocated to us, you bet.")

Linda Benken, the executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka pointed out that many of the halibut caught in trawl nets represent the future of the stock:

— (Halibut 4 June 12 27 sec "Larger halibut are big … depend on that stock.")

The next step in the process is for the council to determine how to go about implementing the bycatch reductions, and what tools to use to achieve them.

The cuts to halibut bycatch will be phased in over three years, with the first 7-percent cut coming in 2014, followed by 5 percent and then a final 3-percent in subsequent years.

The council should wrap up its meeting here in Kodiak today.


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