Incidental catch of halibut in directed groundfish fisheries is likely to be the hot topic Jan. 26-30 when the International Pacific Halibut Commission holds its 91st annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.
This year’s meeting is scheduled to open at the Vancouver Marriot Pinnacle Downtown Hotel with presentations on the fishery, the 2014 stock assessment and the harvest decision table, and conclude with commission decisions of catch limits and regulations.
Major industry concerns revolve around stock assessments that indicate that the Pacific halibut stock has continuously declined from the late 1990s to around 2010. That trend is estimated to have been a result of decreasing size at age, as well as recent recruitment strengths that are much smaller than those observed through the 1980s and 1990s. Those engaged in groundfish fisheries, where there has been substantial halibut bycatch, say they are continuing research on gear less likely to retain halibut, as well as avoiding areas of large numbers of halibut. But others, who harvest in the directed halibut fisheries, are concerned that the IPHC could substantially reduce the allowable harvest in directed halibut fisheries for reasons of sustainability, because of the numbers of halibut caught as bycatch.
So far only a schedule of sessions has been posted online, at http://www.iphc.int/meetings/2015am/AM15ScheduleofSessions_v1.pdfbut IPHC executive director Bruce Leaman says that he expects a detailed agenda will be posted by the end of this week. The meeting itself generally draws 150 to 200 people, and all public sessions and administrative sessions will be webcast.
Part of the heightened interest in this session, said Leaman, is because following this meeting the IPHC will be meeting with members of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Seattle in early February to achieve a better level of dialogue between the two entities.
The IPHC, established back in 1923, sets allowable catch limits on halibut based on stock assessments, while the NPFMC is responsible for setting limits of how much halibut can be caught incidentally to commercial fisheries.
IPHC staff will update the website on a regular basis with new information related to the meeting agenda and reports, webcast information and presentations, as the meeting date approaches.