The Council reviewed and supports two exempted fishing permit (EFP) applications that were presented at the meeting. The first is to allow on-deck sorting of Pacific halibut on non-pelagic trawl catcher processor vessels, as a means of reducing halibut bycatch mortalities. The EFP would extend, through 2018 and 2019, a current EFP granted to the Alaska Seafood Cooperative and co-applicants, which expires at the end of 2017. Under the EFP, vessels are allowed to sort halibut removed from a codend on the deck, rather than routing halibut over the flow scale and below deck, and release those fish back into the water after sampling halibut for length and condition, using IPHC halibut mortality assessment methods. All groundfish and halibut harvested must be within existing allocations for groundfish and halibut mortality. It remains the intent of the Council that once this EFP extension is complete, a regulatory change will have been implemented to allow deck sorting.
The second EFP proposes to allow crew members to collect genetic samples from incidentally caught halibut on a hook-and-line vessel in the 2018 A season western Aleutian Islands Pacific cod fishery. The purpose of the experiment is to confirm or reject results of a previous genetic stock structure study which indicated that Pacific halibut in the western Aleutian Islands are genetically distinct from the remainder of the eastern Pacific population. Staff contact is Diana Evans.