State fisheries biologists have issued 2023 groundfish bycatch regulations for the federal halibut fishery in the eastern Gulf of Alaska, with a requirement for retaining and landing rockfish, as well as reporting all groundfish taken for bait.
Vessels or Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) permit holders fishing for groundfish or halibut must retain, weigh and report all rockfish caught, including thornyhead rockfish. The allowable bycatch percentage by species and gear type is based on the aggregate round weight of retained individual fishing quote (IFQ) halibut and/or IFQ sablefish on board the vessel.
All rockfish and thornyhead rockfish in excess of allowable bycatch limits must be reported as bycatch overage on an Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) fish ticket. All proceeds from sale of excess rockfish and thornyhead rockfish bycatch must be surrendered to the state.
Federally permitted catcher vessels using hook-and-line, pot or jig gear in the exclusive economic zone of the Gulf of Alaska retain and land all rockfish caught while fishing for groundfish or halibut.
Rockfish taken in federal waters must be reported on an ADF&G fish ticket, and rockfish in excess of bycatch allowances must be reported as bycatch overage.
In the Southeast District, a vessel fishing for sablefish may not land or have on board lingcod, except when a vessel is fishing for halibut and sablefish at the same time, during which the vessel may not land or have on board lingcod in excess of the bycatch percentage, by round weight, of all halibut on board the vessel.
The Northern Southeast Inside (NSEI) subdistrict and Southern Southeast Inside (SSEI) subdistrict directed Pacific cod season is open from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 unless closed by emergency order at an earlier date. However, management decisions are based on a seasonal harvest period of July 1 through June 30 to avoid overharvest of Pacific cod during winter spawning aggregations.
When in waters of NSEI and SSEI open to directed fishing for Pacific cod, a CFEC permit holder operating a vessel fishing for groundfish shall retain all Pacific cod brought on board.
Holders of CFEC interim use or limited entry permits may take groundfish from Alaska waters to use as bait, but also must report the bait taken.
ADF&G officials said the allowable bycatch limits for rockfish were adjusted in 2020 to facilitate consistency between state and federal regulations. The amount of that bycatch that may be sold is based on the round weight of halibut and bycatch species or species group.