The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is reducing the maximum retainable amount (MRA) of skates using groundfish and halibut as basis species in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) from 20 percent to 5 percent, effective January 27, 2016, according to James W. Balsiger, Administrator, Alaska Region, NMFS.
Fisheries in the GOA incidentally catch skates while harvesting target groundfish and halibut. The amount of skates that can be retained while harvesting other groundfish and halibut is limited by an MRA. An MRA is expressed as a percentage and is the maximum amount of a species closed to directed fishing (e.g., skate species) that may be retained on board a vessel relative to the retained amount of other groundfish species or halibut open for directed fishing (basis species). A single MRA percentage applies to big skate, longnose skate, and all other skate species. A 5 percent MRA means the maximum amount of skates retained on board the vessel must not exceed 5 percent of the round weight of other groundfish and halibut retained onboard a vessel. The 5 percent MRA affects all catcher vessels and catcher/processors directed fishing for groundfish and halibut in the GOA that harvest any species of skate. The skate MRA is specified by basis species in Table 10 and Table 30 to 50 CFR part 679.
Reducing the skate MRA to 5 percent is necessary to limit the incidental catch and discards of skates in GOA groundfish and halibut fisheries. The lower MRA will decrease the incentive for fishermen to target skates and slow the harvest rate of skates in groundfish and halibut fisheries, which enhances NMFS’ ability to limit the catch of skates to the skate total allowable catch (TAC). In addition, minimizing the likelihood that NMFS will need to prohibit retention of a skate species in a GOA management area during the year to maintain skate catch at or below its TAC will minimize discards of skates.
This information bulletin only provides notice of a fishery management action. For the purposes of complying with any requirements of this action, you are advised to see the actual text of the action in the Federal Register (see 80 FR 80695, December 28, 2015).