Final EA/RIR/IRFA to Reduce Gulf of Alaska Halibut Prohibited Species Catch Limits - Amendment 95 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska
Assessment of a proposed action to reduce the halibut bycatch (PSC) in the groundfish fisheries of the Gulf of Alaska.
Halibut PSC limits have not changed since their implementation in 1989 for trawl fisheries and a revision in 1995 for fixed gear fisheries. Recent declines in halibut Exploitable biomass, particularly in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA), have increased concerns about levels of halibut PSC in groundfish fisheries. Halibut bycatch has a potential effect on directed commercial Individual Fishing Quota, charter, unguided, and subsistence fisheries.
Final action occurred in June 2012, with the intention that Federal regulations to implement the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council’s Preferred Alternative would be in effect by 2014. The Preferred Alternative would reduce halibut PSC limits in the GOA by 15 percent over three years for trawl fisheries and catcher vessel longline fisheries, and by 7 percent in one year for catcher processor longline fisheries.
The proposed action would reduce the halibut PSC limits in the GOA and change the process by which they are set. Currently, PSC limits are set as part of the annual specifications process. The proposed action would establish the halibut PSC limits for the GOA trawl and fixed gear sectors in regulation. Halibut PSC limits then could be modified only through an amendment to those regulations. Seasonal and gear apportionments of halibut PSC limits would continue to be set through the annual GOA groundfish harvest specifications process.