Pacific halibut fisheries could face changes in 2016

California’s Fish and Game Commission is considering a Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) proposal to make regulatory changes to the state’s Pacific halibut fishery. The proposed changes could make California’s Pacific halibut fishery conform to regulations taking effect in federal waters on or before May 1.

Lining up state regulations with federal laws and international agreements could result in periodic Pacific halibut fishery closures and changes to the 2016 catch quota.

“The proposed regulatory changes modify Pacific halibut regulations to allow for timely conformance to federal fisheries regulations and in-season changes. The benefits of the proposed regulations are: consistency with federal regulations, the sustainable management of California’s Pacific halibut resources, and health and welfare of California residents,” according to a Fish and Game Commission statement.

The Pacific halibut fishery is managed under the authority of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982. Federal regulations govern Pacific halibut between 3 and 200 miles offshore; state agencies regulate the fishery between 0 and 3 miles offshore.

Members of the public can provide input on the proposed regulatory changes by 8:30 a.m. on April 13, when a public hearing will be held the Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa in Santa Rosa. Written comments can be submitted via email to FGC@fgc.ca.gov; the commission requests electronic comments are submitted by noon on April 8.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) made its regulatory recommendations in November 2015; a separate final rule is being developed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Commissioners will review the international recommendations and federal final rule to guide the establishment of California’s recreational Pacific halibut fishery regulations for this year.

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