Southcentral Commercial Fisheries
Groundfish Fisheries Seabird Avoidance Regulations

Issued January 31, 2008

Emergency Regulation Amends Seabird Avoidance Requirements for Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Fishermen

On January 24, 2008 under a delegation from the Alaska Board of Fisheries, the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game adopted an emergency regulation to amend the existing state-waters seabird avoidance regulation for longline gear. The emergency regulation adopts recent federal amendments for seabird avoidance for hook and line gear for federal waters by reference contained in federal rule 50 C.F.R. Part 679, with an effective date of January 17, 2008. The emergency regulation will expire on May 22, 2008. However, the Alaska Board of Fisheries will address the state-waters seabird avoidance regulation at their scheduled meeting beginning March 3, 2008 in Anchorage, Alaska.

The amended federal rule requires all vessels 26 feet or greater to employ seabird avoidance measures, with a weather safety standard for vessels 26 to less than 55 feet in length. Previously, smaller vessels were exempted in state waters. The federal rule eliminates the Seabird Avoidance Plan requirement for all vessels. Fishermen are encouraged to read 50 C.F.R. Part 679, revised January 17, 2008 for specific details. The federal rule can be found at: (PDF File) and maps of the areas affected areas can be found at: (PDF File).

Additionally, the amendment removes the requirement for hook and line fishermen to employ seabird avoidance measures when fishing in state waters of the following areas: the Inside District of Prince William Sound, (NMFS Area 649), the Cook Inlet District of the Cook Inlet Management Area and the Eastern Gulf of Alaska, (NMFS Area 659) with three exceptions. The following areas of the Eastern Gulf still require the use of seabird avoidance measures:

  1. Lower Chatham Strait south of a straight line between Point Harris (56° 17.25' N. lat.) and Port Armstrong.
  2. Dixon Entrance defined as ADF&G groundfish statistical areas 325431 and 325401.
  3. Cross Sound west of a straight line from Point Wimbledon extending south through the Inian Islands to Point Lavinia (136° 21.17' E. long.).

Issued Monday, December 13, 2004

Federal regulations (50 CFR 679.24) require certain commercial hook and line fishing vessels to use seabird avoidance measures to reduce the incidence of seabird bycatch. Regulation 5 AAC 28.055, adopts by reference the federal regulations and requires seabird avoidance measures in all longline fisheries for groundfish in state waters. This affects previously exempt vessels in Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet state waters fisheries for sablefish, parallel Pacific cod, and miscellaneous groundfish. Vessels fishing for IFQ halibut in state waters were previously covered under the federal regulations. The new regulations are summarized below. The full text of the federal rule is available at: (PDF File).

Seabird Avoidance Plan

All vessels greater than 26 feet length overall (LOA) are required to have a current, signed seabird avoidance plan on board and are required make it available for inspection. A plan template can be downloaded from the NMFS website at: (PDF File).

Seabird Avoidance Gear

The type of avoidance gear required depends on vessel size. Most vessels over 32 feet are required to use "streamer lines", also called tori lines or bird scaring lines. There are specific design requirements and performance standards for the lines. Detailed information, including diagrams can be found at the NMFS website:< (PDF File).

While fishing for groundfish with longline gear in state waters of Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound vessels must have on board, make available for inspection, and use while deploying longline, the following gear:

Vessel LOA (feet) and type Avoidance Gear
Under 26 none
26 - 55 without masts or rigging Minimum of 1 buoy bag line
26 - 32 with masts or rigging Minimum of 1 buoy bag line
32 - 55 with masts or rigging Minimum of a single streamer line
Over 55 Minimum of a single streamer line
Exceptions: In winds over 45 knots, use of gear is optional.

Other Requirements

In addition to the required seabird avoidance plan and gear, the regulations specify that fish waste (offal) must be discharged aft of the hauling station or on the opposite side of the vessel. All hooks must be removed from the offal. No offal or residual bait may be intentionally discharged while setting gear.

All groundlines must be weighted and setting gear at night or using a lining tube (a device that deploys gear underwater) does not exempt the vessel from use of seabird avoidance gear.

Obtaining Seabird Avoidance Gear

While supplies last, free streamer lines are available at the following locations. It is important to contact them by telephone to arrange receipt of the lines.

HOMER, AK 99603
Phone: 907-235-7267

SEWARD, AK 99664
Phone: 907-224-3366

For additional information on Cook Inlet or Prince William Sound groundfish regulations, contact ADF&G in Homer, at 907-235-8191 or in Cordova at 907-424-3212.