Time is now to protect our future

Compliments to Les Palmer's recent article in the Recreation section of the Kenai Peninsula Clarion in regard to halibut bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska and compliments to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council for taking the time in the fisheries management process they are responsible for to reduce the bycatch of halibut (Halibut PSC) in the Gulf of Alaska. National Standard 9 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act mandates that we do that and I compliment them for taking action on this agenda item.

It is difficult for me discus this issue without getting emotional as we have witnessed a decline of 58 percent of the exploitable biomass that is available for commercial harvest and Area 2C Charter sport catch limits have been reduced by 34 percent to help conserve halibut stocks while the trawl bycatch caps have not been reduced since 1989. Reducing bycatch to help conserve and rebuild our halibut resource is the responsible thing to do as bycatch now kills as many halibut in numbers of fish as are harvested in the commercial halibut fishery.

The ability to manage so much so well has benefited a wide variety of user groups who have been dependent upon this resource for a long time. To continue to do so will involve making a very difficult decision as do all biological and allocative decisions. The Council should respectfully consider reducing the halibut bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska by 15 percent. Reducing bycatch is critical to conserve and rebuild the halibut resource.

Every year, 2,300 metric tons -- just over 5 million pounds -- of halibut bycatch is taken out of the Gulf of Alaska. None of this fish ever goes to market, thus impacting local economies and small businesses which rely on halibut fishing to survive.

Everyone should do their part to help protect and rebuild our halibut fisheries. By continuing to cut harvest limits for commercial and sport fishermen, we are creating long-term struggles to the communities who depend on halibut as both an economic and nutritional resource.

On June 4 the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council will be meeting in Kodiak to discuss halibut bycatch and determine whether a cut in limits are necessary. I encourage you to attend the meetings or email npfmc.comments@noaa.gov or visit the Alaska Marine Councils web site at www.akmarine.org to tell the Council halibut bycatch should be reduced by 15 percent. It will help protect our fisheries long into the future.

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