Bycatch Likely a Hot Topic for Upcoming IPHC Meeting

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 but
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
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

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.