Fish Radio

Halibut stocks stabilizing, catches for 2016

February 2, 2016

This is Fish Radio.  I’m Laine Welch – Halibut stocks seem to be holding steady. Catches and more after this –

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For the first time in recent memory, the Pacific halibut stocks seem to be stabilizing and catch limits for this year reflect it.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission scientists last week set the coast wide  Pacific halibut harvest for 2016 at (29.89) just under 30 million pounds, a 2.3 percent increase from last year. Alaska’s share is 21.45 million pounds, a boost of 200,000 pounds from last year.

This was probably the most positive, upbeat meeting in the past decade. it’s the first meeting in a long time that there weren’t any areas that are looking at double digit cuts.  The feeling is that the stocks are up and the resource is stabilizing and recovering.

Doug Bowen operates Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer.

Southeast Alaska saw the largest halibut harvest gain for recreational and commercial users at 4.95 million pounds, a 6.1 percent increase. Based on surveys, scientists said Southeast  again showed the most improvement in both halibut catches and weights.


The Central Gulf – Area 3A – is the biggest halibut fishing hole and the only region to see a catch decrease to 9.6 million pounds.


They took a 5 percent cut – it’s the only area in the entire coast where that didn’ tstay the same or have an increase. There is still quite a bit of concern about the catches in 3A – the weight per unit of effort, is down, on the survey results anyway. And there’s still a lot of concern about other removals in 3A and possibly inaccurate accounting of bycatch.

For the Western Gulf, IPHC scientists said they “are optimistic that 3B has hit bottom and is showing stabilization.”  Fishing areas along the Aleutians and in Bering Sea areas  also showed “strong signs” of holding steady.

In other halibut news:  The 2016 fishery will open on March 19 and end on November 7.


Retention of halibut taken incidentally in sablefish pots in the Gulf of Alaska was approved. That’s intended to reduce whale predation.

A proposal to reduce the legal halibut size limit from 32 inches to 30 inches to reduce wastage   failed.

Likewise, a proposal to limit the maximum size to 60 inches to protect the large breeders also got a thumbs down.

The IPHC also selected David Wilson of Australia to replace Bruce Leaman as executive director as he departs after nearly 20 years.

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.