The Council passed a motion requesting that the Secretary promulgate emergency regulations to remove vessel use cap regulations for IFQ halibut harvested in IPHC regulatory Areas 4B, 4C, and 4D for the remainder of the 2020 IFQ fishing season. This action does not modify other aspects of the IFQ Program. The Council determined that due to health concerns and logistical challenges associated with the global pandemic, vessel capacity is uncertain in IPHC regulatory Areas 4B, 4C and 4D and this action will reduce the risk that a portion of the harvest is foregone due to limited vessel capacity. This request for emergency regulations does not extend to vessel caps in other IPHC Areas or the sablefish fishery as requested in one of the stakeholder letters received by the Council. The Council determined that current circumstances do not meet emergency criteria in sablefish or halibut outside of Areas 4B, 4C and 4D because fewer vessels have operated at or near vessel caps in these areas in previous years. Additionally, substantial public comment against waiving vessel caps in sablefish and other halibut Areas, suggested that any action in these areas would benefit from the advance notice, public comment and deliberative consideration of impacts to participants, as afforded under the normal rulemaking process. The Council was clear that it strongly supports vessel caps in the IFQ Program and this emergency request represents a rare circumstance that does not indicate support to consider changing vessel caps in the future.
Staff contact is Anna Henry.