NPFMC Moves Toward Next Steps for BSAI Halibut Issue

Staff of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council have
begun working on a discussion paper for the council’s October meeting,
exploring ways to index Bering Sea and Aleutian Island halibut prohibited species
catch limits to a metric of halibut biomass.
The action comes in the wake of final action taken at the
council’s June meeting in Sitka to reduce halibut PSC mortality limits in the
BSAI groundfish fisheries overall from 4,426 metric tons to 3,515 metric tons,
a 21 percent reduction. The council noted in its current newsletter that its
decision was contentious, with some members considering that steeper reductions
were warranted.
In addition, the council during its meeting in Sitka
initiated three related actions.
The chair and executive director of the council are to
evaluate ways to integrate the variety of halibut management and research
activities currently underway, and develop a framework to improve coordination
between the council and the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Council
and agency staff, including the IPHC and representatives of state agencies
serving on the council, are to be consulted.
The council requested both Amendment 80 cooperatives to
provide halibut bycatch management plans for 2016 to the council at its
December meeting in Anchorage, plans that will bring savings to levels below
the hard cap. These are to include halibut avoidance practices on the grounds,
increased communication between participating harvesters, sharing data for
performance tracking, use and development of excluders, deck sorting, and more.

The council also initiated a discussion paper to examine
options for community development quota entities to lease individual fishing
quota for halibut without the IFQ owner on board in areas 4B and 4CDE, in years
when there is low directed halibut harvest.