Pacific halibut catches for 2018 won’t decline as severely as was reported yesterday.
The commercial catches for Alaska will be down 10 percent – not 22 percent – for a total of 17.5 million pounds.
The confusion stems from halibut managers no longer providing straightforward breakdowns of catch limits by district, as they have done for decades.
Instead, they now show a complex “Total Constant Exploitation Yield” chart that lumps in poundages and percentages of halibut removals across the board: by commercial fishermen, charter operators, CDQ groups, and halibut discards and wastages.
Even seasoned pros were scratching their heads this week over press releases from agencies and fishing groups that showed halibut catches that included a combination of the above and differed widely. (In 30 years, I have never seen such confusion.)
In fairness, NOAA fishery managers were pushed to the wire to get the federal rule books in place for the Saturday start of the halibut fishery. The job fell in their lap when U.S. and Canadian halibut commissioners could not agree on how to apportion this year’s catches among all fishing regions.
Here are some corrections for Alaska commercial catches – For Area 2C, Southeast Alaska, the halibut catch is down 15 percent to 3.5 million pounds.
For 3A, the Central Gulf a catch of 7.3 million pounds is down 5 percent.
Alaska’s total commercial halibut catch limit is 17.5 million pounds, a drop of 10 percent from last year.
Fish Radio has suggested that halibut managers at the International Pacific Halibut Commission break out the commercial catches from the other data and provide it in a way that doesn’t require fishermen and stakeholders to be math majors to figure out how much halibut Alaskans can catch.
The halibut fishery opens March 24 and will end on November 7.