Emergency Action to Temporarily Extend the 2020 Sablefish Primary Fishery
This emergency rule temporarily extends the 2020 Limited-Entry Fixed-Gear (LEFG) sablefish primary fishery season from October 31, 2020, to December 31, 2020. At its September 2020 meeting, industry members requested the Pacific Fishery Management Council consider action to address unusually high underattainment of primary sablefish fishery allocations.
As of mid-September 2020, more than half of sablefish primary fishery vessels were below 50 percent of normal attainment levels for the time of year. This underattainment is attributed to operational delays in the Alaska fisheries, in which many sablefish primary vessels also participate. These delays are due to local travel restrictions, postponed season start dates, and quarantine requirements, all related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Given these delays, it is unlikely primary fishery vessels would be able to harvest their full catch limits before October 31. This action is necessary to provide operational flexibility for vessels in the sablefish primary fishery to fully harvest their catch limits despite high economic uncertainty in 2020.
The Council also recommended that, as part of the emergency action, NMFS include an extension of the incidental halibut retention allowance for the sablefish primary fishery, north of Point Chehalis, Washington, from October 31, 2020, to November 15, 2020. The retention allowance ensures additional economic benefits, and reduces regulatory discards of commercially valuable incidental halibut.
For further details, on this emergency action, and the Council’s recommendation, see below.