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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters Life!) - Sport fishermen on charter boats off southeast Alaska will be limited to one halibut each per day under a new rule that federal managers said will help preserve dwindling stocks.
The rule, adopted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service, adheres to guidelines established by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, the U.S.-Canada group that oversees halibut fishing in the North Pacific Ocean.
The new rule, which also restricts fish caught to be 37 inches or smaller, follows several increasingly strict curbs on sport harvests of halibut, which have been consistently too high in the waters off southeast Alaska, said Julie Speegle, spokeswoman for NOAA in Alaska.
Fishermen were not limited on the size of the fish last year.
"They're declining. Fewer fish are reaching catchable size," she said.
The new size limit is aimed at reducing the overall sport catch as well as preserving the individual fish with the best reproductive success, according to Speegle.
"The larger female halibut provide more eggs than the smaller female halibut," she said.
Commercial fishermen are facing restrictions as well, with a total catch capped at levels 19 percent lower than last year, and a 47 percent catch reduction in southeast Alaska, Speegle said.
Commercial halibut fishermen have been subject since 1995 to a quota system capping overall catch in Alaska waters.
The limits on sport halibut harvests have been unpopular in the charter and tourism industries, and have been a subject of dispute between sport and commercial fishermen.
Reporting by Yereth Rosen; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune