IPHC Adjourns Without Agreement on Halibut Harvest

No agreement was reached on 2018 conservation cuts by United States and Canadian parties to the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) before adjourning its annual meeting this past week in Portland, Oregon.

A spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries says the agency is considering the implications of the IPHC meeting and determining what steps to take next. Without an agreement in place on the harvest limits, last year’s catch limits will be in place, but still both nations are expected to make some cuts.

US Commissioner Bob Alverson, manager of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association in Seattle, Washington, said he hopes the IPHC will consider another meeting to resolve their issues.

“I think we have an excellent corps of scientists and the inability of the commissioners to come to an agreement is unfortunate,” he said. “I think it is worth one more shot for the commissioners to try to figure it out. I knew it was going to be difficult going in to it.”

The IPHC did agree that the 2018 fishery should begin on March 24 and conclude on November 7.

The question now, said Alverson, is whether the US government will have regulations for domestic fisheries in place, and have the quota share allocations to the fleet in time for the opening.

Alverson noted that in 2014 harvest reductions put in place included 33 percent in Area 3A, 30 percent in Area 3Bl, 42 percent in 4Ak, 20 percent in 4B, and 20 percent in 2C, but Canada did not take such aggressive reductions. So US percentage reductions are less for this year, whereas Canada needed almost a 42 percent reduction and it was too much to bite off, he said.

Some 31 million pounds of halibut were harvested commercially last year, including roughly 8 million pounds in Canada and 22 million pounds in the US, with an average price to harvesters of $6.50 per pound, which added up to about $130 million to $140 million for US harvesters and about $70 million for Canadians.