AK halibut catches increase 5.5%, no cuts for 2017; Halibut bycatch decreases


Credit: Pacific Fishing Magazine

January 30, 2017

More Pacific halibut will be going to market this year due to an overall boost in the harvests for the West Coast, British Columbia and Alaska. The coast wide catch of 31.4 million pounds reflects a 5.1 percent increase, and for the first time in decades, not a single fishing region got a cut in halibut catches.

The heartening news was released on Friday by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, overseer of the stocks since 1923.

Halibut catch limits are determined by summer surveys at more than 1,200 stations from Oregon to the Aleutians. For this year, the results showed the stock has remained stable over three years, although the fish remain small for their ages.

Alaska gets the lion’s share of the Pacific halibut catch – a 5.5 percent increase statewide adds up to 22.62 million pounds, or an extra million pounds for commercial and charter users (in 2C and 3A). Here is the breakdown in millions of pounds of halibut:

Southeast Alaska: 5.25m, a 6.1 percent increase

Central Gulf: 10m, a 4.2 percent increase

Western Gulf: 3.14m, a 15.9 percent increase

Aleutians regions remain flat at 1.39m and 1.14m

Bering Sea: 1.70m, a 2.4 percent increase    

Bycatch of halibut continues to decline, the IPHC reported.  The accidental take of halibut in other fisheries is now seven million pounds, the lowest level since 1960.

The halibut fishery is set to open on March 11 but may be delayed due to Donald Trump’s freeze on new and pending federal regulations.  That includes the rules to operate the halibut and sablefish fisheries, which opens the same day.  Both fisheries will end this year on November 7.

Find links to halibut and all of Alaska’s catches at www.alaskafishradio.com and on Facebook and Twitter.


Trump ‘reg freeze’ could delay halibut fishery, use of sablefish pots in GOA

January 24, 2017

Trump has issued a memo to all executive departments and agencies to freeze new or pending regulations, giving his administration time to review them. 

Trump freeze could stall halibut fishery
Credit: talking pointsmemo.com



As halibut stakeholders meet this week in Vancouver to set catches and other rules for the upcoming fishery, word has dropped that the fishery could be delayed  due to actions by our new president.

On January 20th Donald Trump issued a memo to executive departments and agencies to freeze all new or pending regulations until his administration has time to look them over.

That includes the rules for the federally-managed Pacific halibut fishery.  The halibut fishery is set to open March 11.

Also potentially stalled due to Trump’s regulation freeze is the use of pots to catch sablefish, or black cod, in the Gulf of Alaska. That gear was ok’d by federal advisors to start this March as a way to prevent sperm whales from snatching the fish from longlines.

The halibut and sablefish fisheries occur at the same time and many fishermen hold quota shares of both. The potentially frozen new regulations also permit fishermen to retain legal sized halibut taken in sablefish pots.

Rachel Baker is a fisheries management specialist at NOAA Fisheries in Juneau.

“The Council also recommended that any sablefish fishermen using longline pot gear in the Gulf and caught halibut incidentally in those pots, as long as they have sufficient IFQ, they are required to keep that halibut.  Stakeholders asked to retain halibut and the Council thought it was important concept from a mgmt perspective to reduce discards and promote efficiency in fishing.” 

NOAA Fisheries in Alaska is aware of the potential impacts posed by the Trump freeze, Tom Gemmell, director of the Halibut Coalition said in a Facebook post. He said fishery managers are working to ensure that the 2017 halibut and sablefish regulations are published in the rule books on time.

We’ll be following the freeze and the halibut catch numbers that will be out on TFriday. Find more at www.alaskafishradio.com and on Facebook and Twitter.