Halibut meeting underway in Juneau
January 27, 2016
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – The year’s biggest halibut meeting is underway in Juneau. You can be part of it from home. More after this —
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(Audio of halibut meeting …..)
That’s the sound of the International Pacific Halibut Commission at its annual meeting going on through Friday in Juneau. Halibut catches are just one of the issues that will be decided, and those could be down slightly – if managers accept the numbers offered last month by staff scientists.
The total halibut catch, meaning for the West Coast, British Columbia and Alaska, was recommended at 26.5million pounds, a drop of nearly 2.7 million pounds from last year.
For Alaska, the catch would be 20.3 million pounds, down less than one million. Catches for all but two Alaska regions would decrease slightly, with 3B, the Western Gulf, and area 4CDE in the Bering Sea seeing slight increases.
There are encouraging signs for the Pacific halibut stocks – Ian Stewart is an IPHC scientist:
Both the data and the models indicate the stock is relatively stable. We are seeing some positive trends in some of the catch rate information. Generally what we have seen is the yields we have been taking out of the stock over the past five years appear to be pretty consistent with the amount of production available from the stock. We are getting a flat trend, so what we are taking out must not be too far in excess of what is available to be taken out and maintain roughly the same biomass level.
Six regulation proposals will be considered this week – one would set a maximum size limit of 60 inches for halibut in commercial and sport sectors. That’s aimed at protecting larger fish which are the breeders, and to help the stocks replenish at a faster pace. Halibut catch limits in the Gulf of Alaska have declined 62 percent since 2003, and 70 percent in the Bering Sea regions.
Another proposal asks for a two inch halibut size reduction to 30 inches, which would reduce handling and wastage from 1.3 million pounds by more than half. Reports indicate the halibut fleet is releasing nearly 9 million pounds of fish under the current 32 inch limit.
Five proposals on catch limits also are on the table – two directed at Bering Sea regions and one for Southeast catch rates. And the North Pacific Council is asking that halibut taken incidentally in sablefish pot gear in the Gulf can be retained.
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. (www.oceanbeauty.com) In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.