The Pacific halibut catch limits for this year won’t be revealed until Friday but reports claiming they will be higher has the industry buzzing.

Last year’s total catch limit for the Pacific U.S. and British Columbia was 36.6 million pounds, of which 91% was taken by all users, meaning commercial, sport, subsistence, personal use and halibut taken in other fisheries as bycatch.

Undercurrent News and global supplier Tradex based in British Columbia  both project the 2021 catch will be increased by 6.5% to 39 million pounds.

That’s based on survey and research data and discussions with David Wilson, director of the International Pacific Halibut Commission that is meeting virtually all week.

Tradex’s Rob McNutt shared these assessments from Wilson:

“The COVID-19 pandemic placed some unique operating challenges on the fishery, including our own research platform, the IPHC Fishery-Independent Setline Survey (FISS). In particular, the need to place vessel crews and IPHC field staff into quarantine both before and after each trip added significant costs. These added operational expenses, combined with fish prices being around 15 percent lower than in 2019, meant that ourselves and commercial operators needed to plan and deploy fishing operations in a more measured manner.”

“Looking ahead to the 2021 fishing period, we are hopeful of an improved operating environment that will include an increased domestic demand for Pacific halibut as the fish of choice for restaurant table throughout Canada and the USA.”

Seafood Auction

Inventories are tight and prices are expected to rise heading into the new season, which begins in early March. McNutt says Tradex is urging halibut buyers to get their orders in now –

“Our recommendation continues to be to get your Halibut program in order as an upward price trend is anticipated due to more demand from the economic revival of foodservice in the US and the potential for a shortage of Russian Halibut raw materials.”

 The IPHC is meeting now through Friday and all presentations and documents are posted online.