Help stop halibut bycatch by bottom trawl fleet (GoFundMe for legal costs, by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council)

By on March 16, 2024

An excerpt from a GoFundMe organized by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council:
*** SU editor’s notes in brackets [  ] ***

“The Bering Sea is known as the ocean’s cradle for halibut. The Alaska Coastal Current carries eggs and larvae to the area, and the vast majority of juvenile halibut that rear there migrate out as they grow older, traveling as far south as California.

Each year, an average of three-quarters of a million halibut are caught and discarded as bycatch in the Bering Sea by a fleet of factory vessels – bottom trawlers – targeting other flatfish. The majority of the halibut they catch as bycatch are juveniles.”

In some recent years, the halibut caught as bycatch [by the bottom trawl fleet] in the area exceeded what was caught by halibut [hook & line] fishermen in that same area by nearly double the weight, or eight times as many individual fish. As halibut abundance went rapidly down, conservative management allowed less and less halibut to be harvested by [hook & line] commercial and sports fishermen – while the [bottom trawl fleet] bycatch users’ limit was unchanged.

This means that for over a decade, as the population of halibut declined and fewer halibut could be caught overall, people who directly relied on halibut for their livelihood increasingly bore the responsibility of conserving the stock – while the seeds of future generations were wasted. A staggering nine out of 17 communities in the region, largely Alaska Native, no longer participate in the halibut fishery upon which they have historically relied.”

In 2016, [hook & line] fishermen and communities from Alaska to the Pacific Northwest organized in response to such waste, and spent more than six years successfully advancing a bycatch limit for the fleet of factory [bottom trawl] ships that was actually linked to the health and abundance of the halibut stock. This effort was approved by regulators in 2021, and the new rule went into effect in January of this year.

But the success of this grassroots effort was short-lived: in December of 2023, the fleet of bottom-trawling factory ships filed a federal lawsuit calling the new rule, Amendment 123, unfair – and asked that it be overturned. If this lawsuit succeeds in court, we lose all we have gained in the fight to reduce halibut bycatch. The bycatch limit for bottom trawlers would go back up to a static limit that makes no sense for conservation, and denies fairness and environmental justice.

The GoFundMe page with full text can be found here:
Help stop halibut bycatch GoFundMe

Salmon University Staff
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