The season for lucrative council business

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council begins a seven-day meeting tomorrow at the Hilton hotel in downtown Anchorage.

The Christmas meeting is always a big one for the council, the time when catch limits are set for the coming year.

Looking over the packed agenda, three items stand out:

Halibut — The council will receive a report from the National Marine Fisheries Service that explains how the embattled halibut catch sharing plan might be saved — or simply killed.

Crab — The council has blocked out a full day to talk about lingering issues with "crab rationalization," including the theory — will Deckboss get in trouble for using that word? — that crewmen have taken a pay cut under the new management regime.

Groundfish — As already mentioned, the council will set the "total allowable catch" for important species in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. I'd be surprised to see much excitement here. Government scientists seem to have blessed a Bering Sea pollock TAC well in excess of 1 million metric tons, similar to what the industry enjoyed this past season. Another important Bering Sea target, cod, could see a decent increase.

Council actions are subject to U.S. commerce secretary approval.