NMFS proposes regulations to reduce the maximum retainable amount (MRA) of skates using groundfish and halibut as basis species in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) from 20 percent to 5 percent.
(From Federal Register) — MRAs assist in limiting catch of a species within its annual total allowable catch (TAC). Once the TAC for a species is reached, retention of that species becomes prohibited and all catch of that species must be discarded. NMFS closes a species to directed fishing before the entire TAC is taken to leave sufficient amounts of the TAC available for incidental catch. Reducing skate MRAs is necessary to decrease the incentive for fishermen to target skates and slow the catch rate of skates in these fisheries.
NMFS manages the groundfish fisheries in the exclusive economic zone of the GOA under the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP).
This proposed rule would limit the amount of skates that could be retained while directed fishing for other groundfish and halibut. The proposed rule would slow the harvest rate of skates and would enhance NMFS’ ability to limit the catch of skates to the skate TACs. In addition, the proposed rule is expected to minimize discards of skates by reducing the likelihood that NMFS would need to prohibit retention of a skate species in a GOA management area during the year to maintain skate catch at or below its TAC.
This proposed rule is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982, the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska, and other applicable laws.