The Advisory Panel to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council has come out in favor of reducing halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea.
The panel is made up of fishing industry representatives, and it was tasked with making a formal recommendation on the issue, by far the most contentious of the Sitka meeting happening now.
After a day and a half of emotional testimony from all sides, the panel voted 11 to 10 to reduce the bycatch cap for the Bering Sea groundfish fleet by 31% overall. Since the fleet is already under its cap, that would amount to a real reduction of about 13% from the five-year average.
The panel proposed different cuts for different sectors. The largest proposed reduction is for the so-called “Amendment 80” fleet. Those are catcher-processors that target flatfish like yellowfin sole, and generate the bulk of halibut bycatch mortality.
The issue now goes before the Council itself, which is scheduled to start taking public comment on halibut bycatch today (Friday).