Halibut catch limit cut, again


Westcoast Halibut fishermen in the Pacific will see about a seven percent reduction in catch this year, less than many were expecting.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission today set the coastwide catch from Northern California to the Bering Sea at 31.02 million pounds. Alaska’s portion of the catch is about 23 million pounds.

The coastwide catch is down from 33.54 million pounds in 2012, but greater than the 22.55 million pound blue-line harvest considered likely going into the meeting. The blue-line would have matched past harvest policy with the current stock assessment, for a more than 30 percent reduction compared to 2012.

The catch limit for each area is as follows:

  • 2A: 0.99 million pounds
  • 2B: 7.038 million pounds
  • 2C: 2.97 million pounds
  • 3A: 11.03 million pounds
  • 3B: 4.29 million pounds
  • 4A: 1.33 million pounds
  • 4B: 1.45 million pounds
  • 4CDE: 1.93 million pounds

Each limit passed with a 5-1 vote. American Commissioner Ralph Hoard was the sole no vote in each instance.

Those numbers match the Conference Board’s suggestions more than any other single set of recommendations. The board, or CB, is an advisory body to the commission formed primarily of harvesters. The commission also heard recommendations from the Processors Advisory Group, or PAG, which were similar overall, but would have resulted in smaller catch in Areas 2A, 2B, 3A and 3B, and a larger one in 2C.

The commissioners voting in favor acknowledged that cuts were necessary for conservation, but said they wanted to mitigate socioeconomic impacts for fishermen by not implementing them all at once.

Hoard said while he appreciated socioeconomic concerns for the fishermen, he had to vote for the fish – and for the fishermen’s long-term future.

For Area 2C, or Southeast Alaska, the 2013 limit is actually greater than 2012. It’s the same as the blue line number, but lower than the Conference Board recommendation. That is the result of improved survey results for the area last summer, and significant cuts in recent years.

In Area 2B, or British Columbia, the 2013 limit is equivalent to the 2012 level, which is a slight reduction from the Conference Board recommendation, and significantly more than the blue lne.

The 2013 halibut season will run from March 23 to November 7 coastwide, except for Area 2A where the fishery is open for specific dates only.

The limits were set in the final public session of the IPHC’s 2013 annual meeting, held in Victoria, British Columbia.

The commission also discussed bycatch, oversight bodies for the commission’s scientific work and halibut management strategies, and other regulatory proposals.

American Commissioner Jim Balsiger was elected chair for 2013-2014. Canadian Commissioner Michael Pearson, the current chair, will be the vice-chair.

The commission’s interim meeting was scheduled for Dec. 3-4 in Seattle, with another webinar similar to the one provided this year. The 2014 annual meeting will be held in the Seattle-Bellevue area Jan. 17-21.

Documents and recordings of the meeting are available online.

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