Homer Celebrates Halibut

Wooden boats, a community fish fry and an update on research by the International Pacific Halibut Commission under warm, sunny skies attracted several hundred people to the combined Homer Halibut Festival and Wooden Boat Festival.

Claude Dykstra, research scientist, and Tracee Geernaert, survey coordinator for the IPHC, gave an update on their research and survey work at the Islands and Oceans Visitor Center in Homer, one of several events during the four day festival, which ran through Sept. 11.

The main focus of IPHC research currently is reproduction, growth (using models), oceanographic and environmental monitoring, and the migration, Dykstra said, during his talk on halibut ecology. The IPHC halibut surveys cover some 1,265 stations each year, and 705 of those stations have been identified for expansion, to collect more data.

The expansions will come in shallower and deeper waters, as well as some standard depth ranges not previously covered before, including some a little further north in the Bering Sea and a little further South in California, areas seen as showing gaps in the commission’s knowledge, Dykstra said.
The normal survey footprint is from 20 fathoms to 275 fathoms, but the expansion will cover 10 fathoms to 20 fathoms in shallower waters and from 275 fathoms to 400 fathoms in deeper waters, Dykstra said.

The Alaska Marine Conservation Council, lead sponsor of the Homer Halibut Festival, joined with the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society’s Wooden Boat Festival in other events, from the annual Kachemak Bay CoastWalk, to clean up the shores of Kachemak Bay, to the singing of sea shanties, recitation of fish poetry, a dinner-dance-auction benefitting KBWBS and AMCC and the 5k Halibut Hustle fun run on the end of the Homer spit.

The events attracted an eclectic group, including veteran commercial harvesters and several generations of their families.

Sponsors included the Homer-based North Pacific Fisheries Association, local processors and farmers and Alaska Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer.

Kelly Harrell, executive director of AMCC, said this salute to Homer as the halibut capital of the world would be back again in Homer in 2017.