Ten to 14 halibut longliners are needed to help with the annual stock surveys from Oregon to the far reaches of the Bering Sea. The International Pacific Halibut Commission charters the vessels each year to take scientists fishing.

Steve Keith is IPHC assistant director –

  “The whole coast is broken up into 28 charter regions and vessels can bid on any number of those regions that they’d like to fish for us. We award a contract to a given region to a given vessel. We supply the bait and the ice, they supply the vessel and crew, and it all has to take place between late May and the end of August.”

Up to 30 halibut biologists also go aboard to help assess the health and abundance of the halibut stock.

“So they’re doing the sampling of the fish and accounting and all the record keeping for the for our purposes and they go out on trips, you know, it’s analogous to commercial fishing trips. So they go out on, you know, five to seven day trips, typically.”

Boats can bid on any of 28 halibut fishing regions. Keith says many boats and biologists sign on year after year.

 “They love it. Over the years they’ll be in Canada, sometimes in Southeast or way out in the Aleutians. They get to see a lot of the North Pacific.”    

It’s just like going out on a regular fishing trip, Keith says, although everything is done according to strict protocols that use the same kind of skates, the same size hooks and spacing  and the same chum salmon bait.

And they fish according to a standard plan. So we fish the survey the same way year after year. And so we have a standard technique and a standard protocols for how to do it and that way, the data that we gather are comparable from year to year.”  

The coast wide stock assessment determines how much fish can be taken each year by all users.

Our survey is one of the most extensive in the world, actually,” Keith said. “We have a time series now that goes back more than 20 years and it’s the primary index of abundance that we use as we’re doing our stock assessment each year. So it’s very important to us, and to the halibut community as a whole.”


Keith says they really value the partnership with the fishing industry.  

 “We appreciate the experience of the skippers and crews that come to us. And I think they like this too. The fishing community is contributing to the science directly and to the management of the halibut resource.”   

  Halibut charter vessels typically get a 10% share of the fish sales.

The deadline to bid on a charter is February 23.  Sends bids via email (pdf) to the IPHC Secretariat at secretariat@iphc.int. Questions? Call 206.634.1838.