The International Pacific Halibut Commission has raised catch limits for Southeast Alaska, the Central Gulf of Alaska, and the Eastern Aleutians and reduced them for the Central Gulf of Alaska. For the Central and Western Aleutians, as well as the Pribilof Islands and Bering Sea, the allocation remains status quo.
Regulatory areas for California, Oregon and Washington, and British Columbia also saw an allocation boost for the prized fishery, with the overall catch limit set at 29.2 million pounds, up 6 percent from the 27.5 million pound allocation a year ago.
The new catch limits were announced on Jan. 30, at the conclusion of the IPHC annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. The season opens on March 14 and runs through Nov. 7. A complete list of the new quotas is online at www.iphc.int
The IPHC was scheduled to meet this week in Seattle with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to discuss the ongoing controversy over the incidental catch of halibut in groundfish fisheries.
Mayor Simeon Swetzof Jr. of the city of St. Paul, Alaska, said in an interview that he couldn’t be happier with the IPHC’s decision to leave the catch limit for Areas 4CDE status quo at 1.285 million pounds. “Even with a 33 percent reduction in bycatch, we still had to go to the IPHC to get more halibut, and we’re talking about a 35 percent reduction (in bycatch) at the council,” Swetzof said. “That tells me that it’s got to be more than 35 percent. We’re going to push for 50 percent. It has to be something meaningful that starts a reverse trend on what is happening with the halibut resource or it’s not going to work.”
Chris Woodley, executive director of the Groundfish Forum, a trade association that represents five trawl companies, said that data compiled by the IPHC showed there has been a steady decline in bycatch over the last few years. With proper tools like deck sorting, some fisheries within the Amendment 80 fleet and others could reduce their bycatch further, he said.
“Everyone looks at bycatch reduction as a solution to the problem,” he said. “There are multiple bycatch users and everyone needs to step up to the plate and do what they can do.”