This report focuses on Alaska commercial halibut catches only; it does not include info on charter operators, CDQ, west coast or Canada

This also corrects numbers for 2C and 3A  that were posted incorrectly/

Pacific halibut catches for the fishery that opens on Saturday will be down once again.

In the interim final rule released yesterday by NOAA Fisheries, the 2018 commercial catch for Alaska was set at 17.5 million pounds, a drop of nearly 10 percent.

The regulations and catch limits for the 2018 fishery are set to make it onto federal rule books today (March 20) – four days before the March 24 opener.

The down to the wire date is due to an impasse in late January when halibut commissioners could not agree on how to apportion the catches spanning the West Coast and British Columbia to the Bering Sea.

That sent the final decision making on the fishery  to officials in Washington, D.C.

Jim Balsiger chairs the International Pacific Halibut Commission –

 “The bottom line is both parties agreed on what we needed to do in terms of reductions, but couldn’t agree on how to get it done. That’s an awkward place to be, but I don’t believe for a second that any of the commissioners did anything other than what they thought was best and what they were required to do by their own ideals as we try to get to a solution.”

Alaska’s halibut fishery is managed and enforced by NOAA Fisheries after catch limits and regulations are set by the IPHC. The rules cover distribution of halibut catch shares to all holders.

Here are some of the gloomy numbers for Alaska’s commercial fleet –

For 2C, Southeast Alaska, the halibut catch will drop below four million pounds, down 15 percent.

For 3A, the Central Gulf a catch of 7.3 million pounds is down 5 percent.

The halibut catch at Area 3B, the Western Gulf, drops bellowed three million pounds, down 16.5 percent.

In two regions along the Aleutians, catches are barely above one million pounds.

Further west in the Bering Sea the halibut catch of 1.6 million pounds is down 7 percent.

The 2018 halibut fishery opens on Saturday, March 24 and runs through November 7. 


                                          Pacific Halibut Commercial catches for 2018 (does not include charter allocations, mortalities, etc.)

2017 (m lb) 2018 (m lb) % of change
2CSoutheast AK 4.21 3.57 -15%
3ACentral Gulf 7.73 7.35 -5%
3BWestern Gulf 3.14 2.62 -16.5%
4AAleutians/Bering Sea 1.39 1.37    -1.43%
4BAleutians/Bering Sea 1.14 1.05 -7.89%
4CDEBering Sea 1.7 1.58 -7.05%
TOTAL  19.4 17.54 -9.7%