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Analysis of Management Options for the Area 2C and 3A Charter Halibut Fisheries for 2020

Analysis of Management Options for the Area 2C and 3A Charter Halibut Fisheries for 2020

A Report to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council

Sarah Webster, Robert Powers Alaska Department of Fish and Game December 3, 2019

Use link below to read full analysis.

https://meetings.npfmc.org/CommentReview/DownloadFile?p=13fa6dae-9093-4fba-b15a-57224c8277f8.pdf&fileName=Analysis%20of%20Charter%20Mgmt%20Options%202C%203A%20for%202020.pdf

 

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The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) approves catch limits for Pacific halibut each year for regulatory areas in Alaska. In IPHC regulatory areas 2C and 3A, which roughly correspond with Southeast and Southcentral Alaska, these catch limits are allocated between the commercial longline fishery and the sport charter fishery. The allocations are specified in the North Pacific FisheryManagement Council’s Halibut Catch Sharing Plan (CSP) for Areas 2C and 3A1. The allocations vary with the magnitude of the overall catch limit, such that the percentage allocated to the charter sector increases slightly as catch limits decrease. The CSP also specifies that “wastage” or discard mortality willcount toward each sector’s allocation. The CSP further specifies that, effective in 2014, charter harvest accounting will be based on numbers of halibut reported harvested in Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) saltwater guide logbooks.

The charter fishery in Areas 2C and 3A is managed under regulations reviewed and recommended each year by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and approved and published by the IPHC as annual management measures. As the first step in this process, the Council’s Charter Halibut Management Committee met October 29, 2019, to develop alternative management measures to be analyzed by the ADF&G for the 2020 season. ADF&G staff provided preliminary estimates of charter harvest and release mortality for the 2019 season to committee members prior to the meeting. The preliminary estimates were based on logbook data for trips through July 31, 2019 and will be finalized once all logbook data are received, entered, and edited.

In Area 2C, the 2019 preliminary harvest estimate for the charter fishery was 67,529 halibut with an average weight of 9.39 lb (Webster et al. 2019). The number of halibut harvested was 11.1% lower than the harvest forecast of 75,988 and average weight was 6.6% lower than the predicted average weight of 10.06 lb. The Area 2C preliminary estimate of charter removals was 0.665 million pounds (Mlb), including an estimated 0.031 Mlb of release mortality. The preliminary estimate of charter removals was 20.1% less than the 0.833 Mlb removal predicted for 2019, and was under the 0.820 Mlb allocation by 18.9%.

In Area 3A, an estimated 137,731 halibut were harvested with an average weight of 14.52 lb (Webster et al. 2019). The number of fish harvested was 5.0% higher than the forecast of 131,223, and average weight was 2.7% higher than the predicted average weight of 14.13 lb. The preliminary estimate of charter removals for Area 3A was 2.012 Mlb, including 0.013 Mlb of release mortality. The preliminary estimate was 6.9% greater than the predicted removal of 1.882 Mlb and 6.5% greater than the allocation of 1.890 Mlb.

The charter committee considered the performance of last year’s measures, and in light of recent trends in effort, number of halibut harvested by charter anglers, average weight of halibut, halibut abundance, and economic considerations, identified the following measures for analysis for 2020:

1 Catch Sharing Plan regulations are at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2013/12/12/2013-29598/pacific- halibut-fisheries-catch-sharing-plan-for-guided-sport-and-commercial-fisheries-in-alaska

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Area 2C (all options include a one-fish bag limit):

  1. 1)  Status quo (reverse slot limit allowing the harvest of a fish less than or equal to 38 inches or greater than or equal to 80 inches).
  2. 2)  Additional reverse slot limits, with lower limits of the protected slot ranging from 35 to 50 inches and upper limits ranging from 50 to 80 inches.
  3. 3)  Additional reverse slot limits (option 2) with annual limits of 1 – 4 fish.
  4. 4)  Reverse slot limits with lower limits of the protected slot ranging from 35 to 50 inches and an upper limit of 80 inches with 1 – 17 Wednesdays or Sundays closed throughout the season, or a Wednesday or Sunday closure for the entire year.
  5. 5)  Reverse slot limits with lower limits of the protected slot ranging from 35 to 50 inches and an upper limit of 80 inches with 1 – 17 Wednesdays or Sundays closed throughout the season, or a Wednesday or Sunday closure for the entire year combined with an annual limit of 3 or 4 fish.
  6. 6)  Reverse slot limits with a lower limit ranging from 40 – 50 inches and an upper limit of 80 inches through July 1, July 15, or August 1, and a reverse slot limit with a lower limit ranging from 35 –50 inches and an upper limit of 80 inches beginning July 1, July 15, or August 1, respectively.

Area 3A (all options include, unless otherwise noted, the status quo two-fish bag limit with 28-inch maximum size limit on one fish, 4-fish annual limit, one trip per vessel and one trip per permit per day, Wednesday closure all year, closure of five Tuesdays in July and August):

  1. 1)  Status quo.
  2. 2)  Fewer or additional Tuesday closures throughout the year.
  3. 3)  Opening all Tuesdays and opening some Wednesdays throughout the year.

This analysis provides information to stakeholders and the Council to assist them in selecting management measures that are likely to keep total charter removals within their allocations. The allocations are derived from catch limits determined by the IPHC at their annual meeting in February 2020. The charter allocations will not be known when the Council is expected to make its recommendations in December 2019. However, the Council may base recommendations on the allocations determined from the charter catch limits associated with maintaining the IPHC’s referencelevel of spawning potential ratio (SPR) and reference distributed mortality limits (“interim managementstrategy”, Stewart et al. 2019) or based on other scenarios for coastwide allocation and distributed mortality limits. It is recommended that the Council include contingencies to accommodate adoption of a range of catch limits.

At the Interim Meeting on November 25, 2019, the IPHC secretariat staff presented results from the 2019 stock assessment, including the Regulatory Area TCEYs under the interim management procedure. Results presented here are within the context of two possible scenarios. The first scenario is consistent with the interim management strategy and uses a TCEY at the reference level (SPR46%) of 31.9 Mlb; distributed mortality limits using a fixed TCEY for 2A (Washington, Oregon, California); a TCEY for 2B (British Columbia) based on a formula set forth at the 2019 IPHC annual meeting and an additional adjustment to the 2B TCEY for U26 bycatch mitigation; and the Space Time Model proportional distribution for all areas in Alaska. The second scenario uses the status quo TCEY of 38.6 Mlb (equating to an SPR40%) and the same distribution procedures set forth in the previous scenario.

2C 0.60 0.80

3A 1.24 1.66

a.The Reference TCEY uses SPR46% and is 31.9 Mlb. The status quo TCEY (2019) uses SPR40% and is 38.6 Mlb.2

Regulatory Area

Charter Allocation (Mlb)a

Reference TCEY

Status Quo TCEY

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This analysis projects total charter fishery removals (harvest plus release mortality) under the status quo (2019) charter fishery regulations in each regulatory area. As shown below, the projected charter removal for Area 2C in 2020 under status quo measures is 0.73 Mlb; this is above the catch limit based on theIPHC’s interim management strategy and below the catch limit based on the status quo coastwide TCEY with updated coastwide distribution. The projected removal for Area 3A under status quo measures is 1.94 Mlb; this is above both the reference and status quo catch limits and would require more restrictive management measures under either scenario.

2C 0.73 -0.13 +0.07 3A 1.94 -0.70 -0.28

This analysis also projects charter removals over a range of proposed alternative management measures. For consistency with recent years’ analyses, the analyses included in this report generally follow previously reported methods (Meyer and Powers 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017; Webster and Powers 2018). The analysis covers a range of alternatives or combinations of measures as proposed by the Charter Halibut Management Committee to allow stakeholders, the Council, and the IPHC to select the desired measures to meet management targets for each area. Where applicable, results will reference candidate measures that result in projected charter removals that are within the two allocation scenarios. However, the IPHC is not limited to these options when setting catch limits. The Council recommendation for each area should include contingencies for higher or lower catch limits and may include buffers for uncertainty in the projected harvests.

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