Halibut Bycatch

The Pacific halibut longline fishery was one of the first fully domestic fisheries to become established off Alaska. As the groundfish fisheries developed, regulations were implemented to limit bycatch of halibut, so as to minimize impacts on the domestic halibut fisheries. Halibut are taken as incidental catch in federally managed groundfish trawl, hook-and-line, and pot fisheries in the Gulf and Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands areas.  Interception of juvenile and adult halibut (~30 cm and greater) occurs in trawl fisheries targeting groundfish species (such as rock fish, flatfish, pollock, and Pacific cod). Incidental catch of halibut also occurs in groundfish hook-and-line and pot fisheries that typically focus on Pacific cod. Regulations require that all halibut caught incidentally in these groundfish fisheries must be discarded, regardless of whether the fish is living or dead. Halibut catch is controlled in the groundfish fisheries using prohibited species catch (PSC) limits.  PSC limits are applied to specific target fisheries, gear types, and seasons.

June 2016 NPFMC Meeting – GOA Trawl Fishery

The June 2016 North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) meeting ended today after five days of discussion surrounding Gulf of Alaska (GOA) groundfish trawl fisheries.  The GOA groundfish fishery does not have the quota system most Alaska fisheries are known...

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NOAA Works to Address Bycatch

Over the next few weeks, NOAA Fisheries will make several announcements highlighting their efforts to monitor, understand, and address bycatch in U.S. ocean fisheries. Collectively these announcements contribute to a broader conversation about how we ensure that...

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Recent NPFMC Action on Halibut Bycatch

The Council reviewed a discussion paper on elements of the previously proposed framework for a new GOA trawl management structure, which was set forth in October 2014. The Council took action to add several options to the pre-existing Alternatives (Alternative 2 and...

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The Problem

Over the past decade, more than 62 million pounds of halibut has been caught, killed, and discarded as bycatch in the Bering Sea/ Aleutian Islands. During the same period, landings of halibut as the target species have declined from an already alarmingly small 52 percent of the total removals to only 34 percent of removals.

Conservation measures implemented over the past 15 years to address declining halibut stocks have fallen disproportionately on the backs of halibut fishers all over the state. While the bycatch limit for the BSAI trawl fleet has hardly changed catch limits for Individual Fishing Quota owners have been cut by 70 percent, and charter fleet harvests have been reduced by 50 percent in some waters.