The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces the March 11, 2017, effective date of regulations to authorize longline pot gear in the Gulf of Alaska sablefish fixed gear fisheries managed under the Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program (Federal Register citation: 82 FR 9501; February 7, 2017). Vessel operators in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands sablefish IFQ regulatory areas have been able to use hook-and-line and pot gear for sablefish during the entire fishing season since 2008. Beginning with the 2017 sablefish fixed gear fishing season, longline pot gear and hook-and-line gear are both allowable gear types for sablefish IFQ in the Southeast Outside District, West Yakutat, Central Gulf of Alaska, and Western Gulf of Alaska.
This action is intended to improve efficiency and provide economic benefits for the sablefish IFQ fleet and minimize potential fishery interactions with whales and seabirds.
Vessel operators using longline pot gear in the Gulf of Alaska sablefish IFQ regulatory areas must comply with requirements specified in regulations at 50 CFR Part 679.42(l). These requirements include pot tags, pot limits, gear removal and redeployment, gear marking, use of a Vessel Monitoring System, and additional recordkeeping and reporting requirements. In addition, vessel operators must retain legal size halibut (32 inches or greater) caught in longline pot gear if any IFQ permit holder on board the vessel has sufficient unused halibut IFQ for the IFQ regulatory area fished and IFQ vessel category. These requirements are summarized in a document posted on the NMFS website.
This information bulletin only provides notice of a regulatory change. For the purposes of complying with the regulatory change, you are advised to see the actual text in the Code of Federal Regulations.