The Council approved management measures for charter halibut fishing in Areas 2C and 3A in 2021 that will be submitted for approval by the IPHC at its annual meeting in January 2021. The measures approved by the Council were developed by the Charter Halibut Management Committee based on analyses provided by ADF&G as well as the needs of the fishery, and these measures are expected to constrain overall charter removals to the final 2021 area allocations, as determined by the IPHC under the Catch Sharing Plan.
The Council’s recommended measures differ from those provided in past years by the addition of “COVID buffers”, which are percentage reductions in expected effort and are used to scale harvest estimates generated using “normal”, i.e., pre-2020, effort inputs in the ADF&G analysis. A range of factors is expected to contribute to the effort reductions, including constraints on travel to Alaska, financial distress among potential clients, timing of and participation in vaccination efforts, and operator health liability precautions, among others. Charter halibut effort was reduced in 2020 by approximately 50% in Alaska and the recommended COVID buffers (below) are considered to be conservative estimates of effort reductions for 2021.
For Area 2C, the Council is recommending that a 35% COVID buffer be used to scale the removals estimates provided in the ADF&G analysis, specifically removals associated with reverse slot limits in Table 6 of that analysis. Subsequently, if the final Area 2C catch allocation is set at 0.65 million pounds, the reverse slot limit would be set at U44O80. If the final Area 2C catch allocation is between 0.651 million pounds and 0.751 million pounds, the lower bound of the reverse slot limit would be adjusted upward from U45 to a maximum of U50. If the final Area 2C catch allocation is greater than 0.751 million pounds, the lower bound of the reverse slot limit would stay at U50, while the upper bound would be adjusted downward to achieve the final allocation. For Area 2C, a one fish daily bag limit would also apply, as would all other status quo harvest restrictions.
For Area 3A, the Council is recommending that a 25% COVID buffer be used to scale the removals estimates, specifically those provided in Table 24 in the analysis. If the final 3A allocation is determined to be less than 1.93 million pounds, but greater than or equal to 1.85 million pounds, the Council is recommending that charter anglers be allowed to keep one fish of any size and one fish measuring less than or equal to 32 inches. If the final 3A allocation is set below 1.85 million pounds but above than 1.74 million pounds, the size limit for the second retained halibut should be adjusted downward to achieve the final allocation. In addition to size limits and a daily bag limit of two halibut, restrictions for Area 3A in 2021 include closure of all Wednesdays to charter halibut fishing, one trip per halibut charter vessel per day; and one trip per charter halibut permit per day. There would be no annual limit on retained halibut per charter anglers in Area 3A.
Staff contact is Jim Armstrong.