Rockfish bycatch reduction in place for PWS groundfish fisheries

State fisheries officials have established a guideline harvest level (GHL) of 150,000 pounds, and are requiring full retention of all rockfish caught in directed groundfish or halibut fisheries in the Prince William Sound management area.

The decision, which went into effect on Wednesday, reduces the allowable rockfish bycatch limit in each fishery by 50%, in order to stay within the guideline harvest level. The reduction in allowable catch of fish caught incidentally to the directed fisheries is designed to reduce rockfish harvest by encouraging fishing in areas with low rockfish abundance.

The plan also sets limits, by fishery, as a percentage of the round weight of the directed species on board the fishing vessel. Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) officials note that any amount of rockfish exceeding the bycatch limit is accounted for as overage and proceeds are being surrendered to the state.

Incidental harvest of rockfish in the 2022 Prince William Sound groundfish fisheries exceeded the GHL, so in order to stay within the GHL in 2023 a bycatch reduction is necessary, said state groundfish area management biologists. All rockfish caught as bycatch must still be retained, and all rockfish must be speciated, weighed and reported.

Permit holders for the Prince William Sound area participating in halibut or directed groundfish fisheries may retain 20% of Pacific cod, 5% of skate species in aggregate, 15% of shark species in aggregate, 20% of lingcod after July 1, 20% of pollock, and 20% of other groundfish in aggregate.