Emergency Action to Temporarily Extend the 2021 Sablefish Primary Fishery
This emergency rule temporarily extends the 2021 Limited Entry Fixed Gear (LEFG) sablefish primary fishery season from October 31, 2021, to December 31, 2021. At its September 2021 meeting, industry members requested the Pacific Fishery Management Council consider action to address unusually high underattainment of primary sablefish fishery allocation. This action is limited to vessels using bottom longline gear only, for reasons outlined in the Federal Register notice.
As of mid-September 2021, 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. This underattainment is attributed to unforeseen delays related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that have resulted in management problems for the harvesting fleet, processors and sales managers to catch, process, and market sablefish in a timely manner within the current sablefish primary fishery season of April 1, 2021, to October 31, 2021. 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 2021.
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, from October 31, 2021, to December 7, 2021. The retention allowance ensures additional economic benefits, and reduces regulatory discards of commercially valuable incidental halibut.
For more information on this action and the Council's recommendations, see the Federal Register notice and other information, below.