The North Pacific Fishery Management Council could be taking additional steps to reduce the catch of halibut by the charter fleet in the central Gulf of Alaska next year. Those charters could see some regulation shifts in 2019 while the rules for Southeast-based charters will remain the same.
The council regulates halibut charters based upon the expected total allowable catch along the U.S. and Canadian Pacific coast. Those catch limits will be set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission in January.
Customers will be limited to four charter trips annually with a bag limit of two halibut per outing in the central Gulf of Alaska. The current size limit for one of those two fish could increase, but that will depend on if the IPHC increases catch limits in the region. However, that is unlikely as the latest stock assessment shows that Pacific halibut populations continue to decline in U.S. and Canadian waters.
Halibut charter fishing in the central Gulf was closed on Wednesdays this year in an effort to reduce the fleet’s catch. Some Tuesdays could be closed as well for a second year in a row. That number will depend on the catch limits set in January.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game's input will also determine how closures are scheduled.
This year's preliminary harvest data indicates that central Gulf charters exceeded their allocation. The harvest in Southeast and the eastern Gulf came in below the total allowable catch for the region. The council isn’t planning additional restrictions for the Southeast charter fleet.