Officials with the International Pacific Halibut Commission have proposed to the governments of the United States and Canada a 7.5 percent reduction in catch limits, down to 31,028,000 pounds, from the 2012 quota of 33,540,000 pounds.
The recommendations still face approval by the governments of both nations.
The announcement from the IPHC came in the wake of its 89th annual meeting, which concluded Jan. 25 in Victoria, British Columbia.
Area 2C, in Southeast Alaska, which was hit with a 76 percent catch limit reduction over a three year period, got a 13 percent boost, to 2,970,000 pounds for the coming season, up from 2,620,000 a year ago. Area 3A, the central Gulf of Alaska, meanwhile got a proposed 7 percent reduction to 11,030,000 pounds, down from 11,920,000 pounds in 2012, and area 3B, the western Gulf of Alaska, was accorded a 15 percent drop, from 5,070,000 pounds to 4,290,000 pounds.
David Poluskin, a commercial fisherman in area 3A who attended the IPHC meeting, said he’s pretty confident the fleet he fishes with will not be hurt by this year’s cut, but he’s also anticipating another cut next year.
Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, also was among the more than 250 halibut industry stakeholders in attendance at the meeting. Behnken said the view of the IPHC has changed dramatically since last year. “Last year they still thought there was a large biomass of small fish poised to recruit into the fishery and rebuild stocks,” she said. “They have dramatically revised that projection to say that stocks have declined for 10 years and there have not been any year classes that are above average in that time period, so that we are likely to see an ongoing decline in stocks, and potentially the need to reduce the exploitation rate, the amount of fish available that we an harvest to allow the stocks to rebuild.
“I can only hope that in the long run the fact that 2C is being more conservative in its harvest rate will pay off for rebuilding the stocks in this area, and be reflected in stronger catch limits in the future,” she said.
More information on the IPHC’s proposals is at www.iphc.int