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Halibut catch starts in Bristol Bay

Bristol Bay's halibut fishery is underway.

"There are halibut around and people are beginning to catch them," said Susie Jenkins-Brito, the regional fisheries coordinator for the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.

Jenkins-Brito said the group had its first report of halibut caught in the area on May 22, and other fishermen in the area have started going out to catch halibut as well.

The first fisherman who reported a landing planned to send his catch to Anchorage as headed and gutted product, Jenkins-Brito said.

Togiak Seafoods and Togiak Fisheries will buy halibut this season.

Jarek Hanak, the plant manager at Togiak Seafoods, said no halibut deliveries had been made at his plant as of May 26 but the plant had started making ice and was hoping for deliveries later in the week.

There are 28 fishermen who have permits to harvest BBEDC's quota in the area on longline vessels, out of 35 who initially applied.

"Most of those fishers are out of Togiak; however, we have a handful from Manokotak, Dillingham, Clarks Point and one from Naknek," she said.

It's unknown how many of those people will actually catch halibut; typically, about 15 people participate in the fishery, she said.

Those fishermen have access to about 27,540 pounds in Area 4E. The quota was set earlier this year by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

BBEDC also has a quota for Area 4D, which is farther west in the Bering Sea. In that area, the group has access to 45,535 pounds.

Jenkins-Brito said some of that quota can be transferred to longline fishermen catching halibut in the Bristol Bay area if more is needed locally.

Statewide, the halibut commission reported that about 5.1 million pounds of halibut had been landed in Alaska through May 14, or about 30 percent of the quota for the year. In Area 3B and 4, which includes the western Gulf of Alaska out to the Bering Sea, about 732,000 pounds were delivered in 79 landings through May 14.

That's similar to 2014, when about 5.3 million pounds, or 32 percent of the catch limit, were caught statewide by the same date, according to the report, although the fishery opened about a week earlier that year.

Molly Dischner covers fisheries at KDLG in Dillingham.

This story first appeared in The Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is republished here with permission.

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