Final Action on BSAI Halibut

On Monday, November 13, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council took final action on BSAI abundance-based management of halibut bycatch.  The council adopted a motion that is a hybrid of alternatives 3 and 4— in other words, the bycatch reductions are not as deep as those included in Alternative 4, but overall the motion was A LOT better than alternative 3. The motion is below. Here are some key points to help you understand the impacts:
1. Regardless of abundance, the halibut bycatch cap for the Amendment 80 fleet will not go higher than the current cap (1745 metric tons)
2. Likewise, caps do not go lower than 1,134 metric tons—again regardless of abundance--but that floor was included in ALL alternatives under consideration.
3. Between the bycatch ceiling (1745 metric tons) and the floor (1134 metric tons) bycatch caps will track abundance (indexed to both the halibut setline survey and the Bering Sea trawl survey)
4. Caps at very low levels of halibut abundance are 5% lower than the caps identified in alternative 3 regardless of the trawl survey index, which provides a measure of protection to the directed fishery (bycatch of mature halibut -- which are sampled by the setline survey -- are deducted from the area in which the bycatch is taken and come directly off the top before the directed fishery catch limits are set)
5. When halibut abundance is low (vs. very low), trawl bycatch caps will be reduced 25% (trawl survey index low) or 20% (trawl survey index high) below the existing cap.
Deputy Commissioner Rachel Baker made the motion and worked hard to build support for this compromise position.  The motion passed 8-3, with Oregon and two of the three Washington representatives voting against it.  Kenny Down and NMFS acting regional administrator Doug Mecum voted in favor.  This is a significant step toward reducing the impact of bycatch on halibut stocks, halibut fisheries, and the fishing communities that depend on the halibut resource. 
THANK YOU to everyone who submitted written testimony, called in to testify, or supported ALFA’s work over the past six years while we played a lead role in reducing halibut bycatch.
The action must still be approved by the Secretary of Commerce (likely) and will also likely be challenged in court by the Amendment 80 fleet—so!  More work ahead but still a milestone!