IPHC Boosts Harvest Limits

The International Pacific Halibut Commission is recommending to the governments of Canada and the United States catch limits totaling 31.40 million pounds for 2017, a boost of 5 percent over 2016 limits totaling 29.89 million pounds.

The IPHC approved a season to run from March 11 through Nov. 7 for both the Canadian and U.S. individual quota fisheries.
“It is important to note that this is a transition year for the IPHC,” said Linda Behnken, an IPHC commissioner who is the executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association.

“The commission acknowledges problems with the past/current harvest policy and a commitment to moving to a new harvest policy, Behnken said.

“This new policy will likely be based on a spawning potential ratio and the appropriate SPR for halibut will be developed with the help of the IPHC’s marine strategy evaluation committee and marine strategy advisory board. During this transition period, the commission kept catch limits at or close to last year’s numbers with some increases in Area 2.

“The sense of the commission is that the spawning biomass is stable and slightly increasing, although the outlook for near term FCEY (fisheries constant exploitation yield) is pessimistic until more favorable recruitment is documented,” she said.

The IPHC allocations include 10,000,000 pounds for Area 3A, the central Gulf of Alaska, including a 7,739,000 catch and 371,000 pounds for incidental mortality for the commercial fleet, plus 1,890,000 pounds for the guided sport fishery.

In Area 2C, in southeast Alaska, the combined commercial/guided sport allocation was 5,250,000 pounds. Commercial harvesters were allocated 4,335,000 pounds, including 4,212,000 pounds of harvest and 123,000 pounds of incidental mortality, and another 915,000 pounds went to the guided sport fishery; 1,390,000 pounds to Area 4A, the eastern Aleutians; 1,140,000 pounds to Area 4B, the central and western Aleutians; 752,000 pounds to Area 4C, the Pribilof Islands; 752,000 pounds to Area 4D, northwestern Bering Sea; 196,000 pounds to Area 4E, Bering Sea flats; 1,330,000 pounds to Area 2A, California, Oregon and Washington; and 7,450,000 pounds to Area 2B, British Columbia, including a sport catch allocation.

In January 2016, the IPHC allocated 9,600 pounds to Area 3A; 4,950,000 pounds to Area 2C; 2,710,000 pounds to Area 3B; 1,390,000 pounds to Area 4A; 1,140,000 pounds to Area 4B; 1,660,000 pounds to Areas 4CDE; 1,140,000 pounds to Area 2A; and 7,300,000 pounds to Area 2B.

Rebuilding depends on future recruitment, and future catch limits depend on rebuilding and the management goals identified through the ongoing marine strategy evaluation.”