Halibut catch outlook more optimistic for 2015
December 4, 2014
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Some good news for next year’s halibut catches. More after this –
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The Pacific halibut stock appears to be rising from the ashes and that bodes well for next year’s catches.
Several areas show improvement – Compared to the status quo there would be three areas that would have a higher catch level at this year’s blue line relative to the adopted catch limit for 20.14 – 2C, 3A and 4A 7
Ian Stewart is with the International Pacific Halibut Commission, which held its interim meeting this week in Seattle. Surveys show the fish are still growing slower than normal, but after more than a decade of conservative management due to steady declines, the halibut stock shows signs of rebounding.
The trend estimates for this year are a bit more optimistic – what we are starting to see is more sensitivity to management actions than we have seen in previous years. As the stock begins to stabilize at this level, the level of catch is becoming relatively even more important to future trends than it was when the stock was declining on the heels of big recruitments and big changes in size at age. 9
Surveys this year showed total weights per unit of effort, or fishing gear, were 6% higher than in 2013. Stewart says it’s unclear what is causing the halibut to grow so slowly.
Probably all of those things are contributing. What we know is that it was low in the early part of last century in the 30s and 40s – aging method is not a contributor. But probably climate and prey and or competition with other species perhaps density dependence and perhaps size selective fishing are all playing a role.
One change in factoring the halibut catches is a full accounting for all sizes and sources of all removals, including for the first time guided sport charters.
All of these analyses are conditional upon estimates of removals. And if we’re not getting our removal estimates right, if we’re getting biased estimates of one or more sources of information, or if assumptions we’re making about discard mortality rates or level of bycatch or unguided sport removals which are difficult to quantify sometimes.
The 2014 coast wide halibut catch was 27.5 million pounds; Alaska’s share was about 16 million pounds. Final decisions will be made at the IPHC annual meeting next month in Vancouver.
Find links to all of Alaska’s fish meetings and catches at www.alaskafishradio.com
Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, an Alaska corporation proudly supporting Alaska’s coastal communities and the Alaskans who depend on fishing for their livelihoods and culture. www.oceanbeauty.com In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.