As the 2019 fishing seasons throughout Alaska begin to wind down, halibut bycatch mortality for the year to date is already higher than all of 2018 and 2017. Onboard observers have recorded seven million, four hundred forty thousand pounds of halibut mortality across all fisheries for 2019 until the week ending October 26. The total recorded mortality for all of 2018 was seven million two hundred sixty thousand pounds, and 2017 ended with seven million four hundred seventeen thousand pounds. Since the National Marine Fisheries Service began reporting data in their current format in 2013, the highest year’s total was 2014’s eleven million two hundred fifteen thousand pounds.
Halibut mortality fell during the week ending October 26 from just over one hundred fifty thousand pounds to eighty one thousand one hundred pounds. Area 620, between the south end of Kodiak and the Shumagin Islands, accounted for the largest share, with twenty thousand six hundred pounds. If historical tendencies remain the same, the next two months should show a considerable reduction in bycatch, with December bringing the lowest numbers of the year, as many of the groundfish trawl fisheries close. Fishing pressure normally begins to increase in the middle of January, when trawl fisheries start to re-open.
Bycatch of salmon and crab fell dramatically as well during the same week. Twenty one thousand bairdi, tanner, and king crab were recorded as bycatch, along with one thousand seventy-five king salmon and five hundred three salmon of all other species.