During the week of June 4, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council will be meeting in Kodiak to discuss halibut bycatch limits in the Gulf of Alaska. This issue is important to all Alaskans, as commercial, sport and subsistence halibut fishing play a vital role in our state’s economy. For the past 25 years, halibut bycatch limits for groundfish fishermen have remained untouched while halibut harvest limits have dropped by over 63 percent.
Each year, trawlers and longline fisherman discard up to 2,300 metric tons — over 5 million pounds — of halibut bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska. For a species that is undergoing rapid depletion, it is absolutely crucial that this bycatch limit be reduced. Currently, the annual halibut bycatch now exceeds the harvest limit of Southeast and Southcentral halibut sport fisheries combined, thus wasting this valuable resource.
Everyone needs to do their part to conserve and rebuild our state’s halibut fisheries. Not holding all sectors to the same standards is ineffective and unfair. I encourage Southeast and Southcentral residents to write letters to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council or attend the meeting in Kodiak and tell them to reduce halibut bycatch in the Gulf by 15 percent.