In Kodiak, the Council received an update from NMFS staff concerning an ongoing deck sorting analysis. NMFS is developing a proposed regulatory amendment to implement voluntary halibut deck sorting on trawl catcher processors when operating in non-pollock groundfish fisheries off Alaska. The proposed amendment is derived from the exempted fishing permits (EFPs) issued by NMFS to Alaska Seafood Cooperative (formerly Best Use Cooperative) from 2009-2019 to test handling methods (deck sorting) for reducing halibut mortality in non-pollock groundfish fisheries.
The deck sorting analysis is being completed internally at NMFS and is in a draft Regulatory Impact Review stage. At the Kodiak meeting, NMFS consulted with the Council about the draft deck sorting analysis to provide an opportunity for Council members and the public to identify questions or other areas of concern with the work. The agency described plans to formulate annual monitoring plans with help from interested stakeholders, to allow maximum flexibility for the deck sorting program over time. The Council is not taking action on this draft analysis and may receive updates at future meetings about the analysis, including the annual monitoring plan. Staff contact is Elizabeth Figus.