Chatham Blackcod Quota’s announced

Sitka… The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that the 2008 sablefish annual

harvest objective (AHO) for the Northern Southeast Inside (NSEI) sablefish fishery will be 1,508,000

round pounds, slightly higher than the AHO used in 2007 due to a decrease in the amount decremented as

bycatch in the halibut fishery. The fishery opens by regulation at 8:00 am on August 15, 2008 and will

close at 12:00 noon on November 15, 2008. There are currently 97 permits for this fishery, five less than

in 2007; therefore the individual quota share (EQS) will be 15,550 round pounds (7.6% above last year’s

EQS of 14,450 round pounds). Permit holders should have received a certified letter detailing any legal

overage or underage (up to 5% of the 2007 EQS) incurred during 2007. Their 2008 Personal Quota Share

(PQS) will be adjusted accordingly. Permit holders who did not receive that certified letter should contact

Kamala Carroll directly (747-6688).

The abundance of sablefish in Chatham Strait forecasted using the 2006 abundance estimate of sablefish

which was calculated using mark-recapture methods was rolled forward this year rather than completing a

new stock assessment using data collected in 2007. The decision to forego a complete stock assessment

this year was made to allow time for the publication of the methods and results of the 2006 stock

assessment and the results of the work provided by the consultant. Both reports are expected to be made

available to the public in early 2009. For the 2008 fishery, as was done for 2007, a harvest rate of F40%

(0.116) was applied to the lower 90% confidence limit of the forecasted biomass to set the acceptable

biological catch (ABC). The ABC was then decremented to account for updated estimates of bycatch

from other fisheries and estimates of unreported mortality to produce the AHO. The increase in the AHO

for 2008 is a result of one thing only: a 20,000 lb decrease in the amount decremented for mortality in

other fisheries, this decrease is largely due to a decrease in the estimated bycatch in the halibut fishery.

The reduction in permits to the fishery results in an additional increase to the EQS.

Harvest Rate and Quota Determination Considerations

The Department has determined that the harvest rate used from 2004-2006 (F40% = 0.138) was

inappropriately high. In order to review our current stock assessment methods and explore the possibility

of using an age structured analysis the Department contracted with a consultant. That work revealed that

the stock level in Chatham is at a low level relative to the historic biomass and that the harvest rate used

in 2007 and now in 2008 is unsustainably high for a population at this level. For this reason the

Department intends to proceed with caution and conservatism with regard to the harvest of sablefish from

Chatham Strait, but will give the industry time to adjust to this information. Therefore fisherman can

expect that in 2009 the Department will use a more conservative harvest rate such as F45% or F40%

adjusted. These harvest rates are used by other agencies managing sablefish on the west coast. Beginning

in 2009 the Department intends to discontinue the precaution of using the lower confidence level when

setting the TAC, and instead use the point estimate. Additionally, in 2009 the Department intends to begin

deducting testfish removals from the ABC. However, the Department will explore options to minimize

the impact to permit holders regarding the deduction of testfish removals by integrating EQS harvest into

testfish fishing.

The Department has taken into consideration that there has been no definitive evidence of strong

recruitment into Chatham Strait, that there has been a reduction in the TAC for the federal fishery, and

that Canadian sablefish fishermen are seeing declines in abundance there.

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