NOAA Fisheries is providing notice of the immediate effect of regulations of the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). The commercial IFQ halibut season opens Saturday, March 19, 2016.
At its annual meeting in January, the IPHC recommended to the governments of Canada and the United States catch limits for 2016 totaling 29.89 million pounds, a 2.3 percent increase from last year. Alaska’s total halibut catch was set at 21.45 million pounds, up 235,000 pounds from 2015.
For commercial and charter halibut fishers in Alaska, the following regulations are in effect:
In Area 2C (Southeast Alaska):
- Commercial catch limit: 3,924,000 pounds
- Charter fishery one-fish daily bag limit with a “reverse slot limit.” Charter anglers may only keep a halibut that is less than or equal to 43 inches or greater than or equal to 80 inches in length
- If halibut are filleted at sea, the carcass must be retained onboard until landing
In Area 3A (Southcentral Alaska):
- Commercial catch limit: 7,336,000 pounds
- Charter fishery two-fish daily bag limit: one any size / one no more than 28 inches total length
- Charter vessel anglers will be limited to harvesting no more than four halibut on charter vessel fishing trips in Area 3A during 2016 and these halibut must be reported on the angler’s harvest record
- A vessel limit of one trip per calendar day, on which halibut are harvested
- A limit of one trip per charter halibut permit per calendar day, on which halibut are harvested
- No person may catch and retain halibut on a charter vessel in Area 3A on Wednesdays throughout the year
- If halibut are filleted at sea, the carcass of the halibut that is less than or equal to 28 inches must be retained onboard until landing
Unguided halibut sport fishers in Alaska will continue to observe a daily bag limit of 2 fish any size per person per day.
This season, NOAA Fisheries’ electronic Groundfish/Individual Fishing Quota Daily Fishing Longline and Pot Gear logbook has been added to the list of acceptable logbooks for use in the Alaska commercial halibut fishery.
The IPHC approved the exemption of halibut bearing external IPHC tags from sport daily bag or possession limits, size limits, and season restrictions, and from personal use and subsistence daily bag or catch limits. Such tagged halibut are already exempt from commercial limits, and this change was made to ensure IPHC receives information from all tagged halibut that are caught. The IPHC website has instructions for handling tagged halibut at http://www.iphc.int/faqs.html.
The IPHC authorized longline pot gear as legal gear for the commercial halibut fishery in Alaska when NMFS’ regulations permit the use of this gear in the sablefish individual fishing quota fishery. NMFS is currently developing a proposed rule to implement a recommendation by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to authorize longline pot gear in the Gulf of Alaska sablefish individual fishing quota fishery.
The commercial fishery season dates are March 19 through November 7, 2016 for all areas in Alaska.