Contrary to all expectations, commercial halibut catches were increased for all but one Alaska region – the Western Gulf of Alaska.

The numbers were revealed Friday at the International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting in Victoria, British Columbia.

“The reasons for increases almost across the board were due to estimates of the overall biomass being up based on expanded surveys done last summer.”

Doug Bowen runs Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer.A

“There’s a couple of stronger year classes 2011/2012   that are just starting to show up in the commercial catches and I think the scientists are cautiously optimistic that we could see some stronger harvests as a result of those year classes coming up and they want to have another look at them next year and the year following.”   

The coastwide commercial catches ranging from Northern California to the Bering Sea were increased to nearly 25 million pounds, almost six percent higher than in 2018. Alaska’s share will be just under 20 million pounds, up nearly three million pounds from last year.

Southeast Alaska’s catch was boosted by just over 1 percent to 3.6 million pounds; the Central Gulf gets a nearly 10 percent increase to over 8 million pounds of halibut. The Western Gulf catch was set at 2.3 million pounds, a drop of more than 11 percent.

Area 4A in the Aleutian Islands regions was increased to 1.65 million pounds, a boost of 20.4 percent. Area 4B, also along the Aleutians, was increased by more than 15 percent to 1.21 million pounds.

The Bering Sea regions, Areas 4CDE saw the biggest jump to 2.04 million pounds, a nearly 30 percent increase.

                       March 28-30 in Kodiak

Bowen says the increases came despite concerns by IPHC director, Dr. David Wilson –

“Any catches over 20m pounds coastwide he feels will result in declines in the biomass. So it is interesting that the catch limits are going up in light of the fact that we do have declining recruitment and declining harvest rates coastwide.”

The halibut fishery will open on March 15 and run through November 14.

In more good news for Alaska – next year’s IPHC annual meeting will be held in Anchorage. Doug Bowen –  

“We look forward to having all of the halibut fishermen, and charter operators and commercial longliners to attend these meeting and be part of the process.”


Commercial Halibut catches for 2019 and comparisons to 2018

Chart credit:  Alaska Boats & Permits, Homer

Area 2018 Adopted M/Lbs 2019 Adopted M/Lbs Percent Change
2A WA,OR,CA 0.68 0.86 27.04
2B B.C. 5.3 5.1 -3.70
2C Southeast AK 3.57 3.61 1.12
3A Central Gulf 7.35 8.06 9.66
3B Western Gulf 2.62 2.33 -11.07
4A Aleutian Islands 1.37 1.65 20.44
4B Aleutian Islands 1.05 1.21 15.24
4CDE Bering Sea 1.58 2.04 29.11
Total 21.51 24.86 5.73
Season Dates March 15   –  Nov. 14