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Alaska crab, halibut top fisheries council meeting

Hannah HeimbuchThe Arctic Sounder
Loren Holmes photo

A long list of crabbing issues, decisions on halibut catch sharing, and groundfish regulations look to dominate a fall meeting of Pacific fisheries overseers. The 15 members of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council will gather beginning on Wednesday to discuss fish issues for the Pacific Northwest.

The council is made up of 11 voting and four non-voting members. Seven of the voting members are from the state of Alaska, while others hail from Washington and Oregon. The meeting is being held at the Anchorage Hilton from Oct. 3-9. For those unable to attend the public meeting, online participation is welcomed.

After hearing initial reports from state and federal agencies, the council will move on to big-ticket items such as halibut, groundfish, stellar sea lions, vessel replacement issues and crab management.

In the halibut world, the council will make a final decision on the halibut catch sharing plan. If approved, the plan may move five percent of the yearly halibut allocation from charter and sport operations to commercial fishermen.

There are a total of five options for Pacific halibut allocation on the table. That decision will be the first of the major issues addressed following reports.

Also on the agenda is review of halibut charter limits for 2013 and review of the Observer Deployment Plan. That plan places observers on halibut vessels larger than 60 feet.

“Our fishermen are interested in the changes to the observer program,” said Aleutians East Borough Natural Resources Director Ernie Weiss. “(We’re) looking forward to that report. Plus, halibut takes up the first 16 hours, (and) we’re watching that.”

Other issues on the docket include approval of groundfish catch proposals, review of issues surround the stellar sea lion population and a final action regarding vessel replacement issues. Amendment 80 of the fishery management plan, the vessel replacement rule identifi es and limits the vessels that can be used for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Island ground fishery.

The agenda will also cover a complexity of crab industry issues. Those include a review of the Right of First Refusal contract, a review of crab fishery participation requirements, crew provisions, a discussion
of binding arbitration issues, a review of crab data reporting and discussion of alternatives for the tanner crab rebuilding plan in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

Weiss noted that his office is also watching a groundfish agenda item, covering feedback regarding the Central Gulf of Alaska trawl prohibited species catch tools.

“Our trawl fi shermen want protections for communities,” said Weiss, “not necessarily a new catch share program. I think the recently passed Kodiak Borough resolutions on the subject are a good starting
point.”

Here's a detailed agenda.

This story first appeared in the Bristol Bay Times. Hannah Heimbuch can be reached at hheimbuch@reportalaska.com.