AMCC Press Release: Fishery Managers Lower Halibut Bycatch Limit in Gulf of Alaska
Kodiak, AK- Federal fishery managers took important action today to protect the health of the halibut population in the Gulf of Alaska. Members of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (the Council) voted to reduce bycatch of halibut in the Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries by 15%. The bycatch cap of the hook and line fleet was also reduced.
“This action will help protect the health of the halibut population and the jobs of thousands of commercial and charter halibut fishermen in our coastal communities who rely on halibut,“ said Theresa Peterson, fisherman and Kodiak Outreach Coordinator for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.
Halibut are caught incidentally by the millions in groundfish fisheries, especially trawl fisheries, that are pursuing species such as arrowtooth flounder, yellowfin sole and Pacific cod. The halibut caught are often dead and are required by law to be discarded back into the ocean. The trim in bycatch is taken off the top of the currently allowable cap of about 5 million pounds and will be effective in 2014.
“On behalf of our organization and the over 1500 sport, commercial, subsistence harvesters and other halibut users across Alaska who called for reducing waste, we thank the Council for taking meaningful action to protect our halibut resource “ said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.
Science by the International Pacific Halibut Commission has shown that reducing bycatch is important to the short and long-term health of the halibut population. The Council’s action to curtail bycatch will contribute to rebuilding halibut population in the Gulf of Alaska.
“We applaud the Council for taking this important first step and we look forward to the future action by fishery managers to further limit bycatch for the long-term health of the halibut resource,” said Peterson.---
From Andrew Jensen, of the Alaska Journal of Commerce:
In speaking in support of his motion to address the trawl industry arguments that this debate over bycatch is about allocation and not conservation, Hull pointed to the analysis that stated a bycatch limit is not an allocation.
"Instead," the document stated regarding bycatch limits, "it reflects the maximum removal amount of the designated species that society is prepared to tolerate, before it takes punitive action to curtail further (prohibited species catch) losses. Because PSC must be avoided, to the extent practicable, it cannot be regarded as an asset of fixed quantity, but instead as an upper-bound threshold, the farther below which the total PSC mortality level, the better, all else equal."
Based on the massive volume of public comment and written submissions seeking a bycatch cut, Hull noted, society's willingness to tolerate halibut bycatch in an environment of declining abundance of catchable fish has clearly reached its limit.
From Margaret Bauman of The Cordova Times:
Jonathan Warrenchuk, an ocean scientist with Oceana, a conservation group dedicated to protection of the world’s oceans, said the phased in approach was a bit of a surprise. “It is pretty clear, this is just a Band Aid,” he said. “The halibut resource looks like it is in trouble and managers are making big cuts, but the cuts were needed now. They weren’t even considering a large number to begin with. This is too much of a compromise.”
Still, Warrenchuk calculated that when fully in place in 2016, the action would result in a reduction of over 300 metric tons of halibut annually.
Democracy is not entirely dead at the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. Thank you to everybody who helped. Many people came to Kodiak at their own considerable expense to testify, and it made a difference. This should be seen as a good start. We still need to build momentum to roll back dragger destruction of our Gulf. Halibut are hardly the only species under duress by careless and wasteful fishing practices.
Keep yer flippers wet.