Fish Radio

Halibut survival focus of sport fish operators
June 4, 2015

 This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch. Every halibut counts. More on saving each fish after this . . .

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 Finding ways to gently release halibut back into the water is the goal of a collaboration by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Alaska Sea Grant and the Southeast charter industry. Together they’ve developed new ideas, technologies, and management strategies to better protect sport caught halibut..

“The operators have been aware that there is a small, but consequential issue concerning the survival of the sport-caught halibut.”

 Terry Johnson is with Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Program. He says it was Southeast Charter boat captains who asked for the help.

 They came to us and said, “We want to do something about this, we want to raise the consciousness within the industry about the importance of getting these fish back in the water alive and healthy.”

 With local knowledge and scientific expertise the project leaders are coming up with safe handling techniques sport fishermen can use with their halibut catches.

 The people who are advising us and providing the direction on the best practices are themselves charter boat operators, so we have asked them what they think is the best thing to do and then that is the information we will disseminate to the public.

 They use posters and print materials as well as a video and some training on gentle handling. Johnson says the best tool is, “to think like a fish.”

 “Think about the interaction with a fish that you’re going to release from the fish’s point of view and basically try not to hurt it. And that means at all possible try and release it while it is still in the water use proper tackle that minimizes injury, and then placing them back in the water not flinging them like a Frisbee. It’s a gentle release; it’s not throw them back.”    

 Though it is hard to determine the mortality in sport-caught halibut, the charter boat industry would like to see it be as low as possible due to increased catch and release happening on deck.

 “You know I think everyone thinks that some fish will be saved. And it is actually kind of surprising how many fish charter boats catch and release. Many boats are catching 4, 6,8,10 fish and releasing them for every one they retain.”

 The goal of this project is to continue to protect the stock for all users as well as sustaining fishermen.

 “We hope that recreational anglers on their own boats will see the tour operators as role models and guides in this process and will adopt the same methods that the charter operators do.”

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