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Ian Stewart, a quantitative scientist with the IPHC, provided an updated summary of the Pacific halibut data and stock assessment he presented during the commission’s December meeting in Seattle, Wash.
Stewart’s report noted that due to many remaining uncertainties in Pacific halibut biology and population dynamics, a high degree of uncertainty in both stock scale and trend will continue to be an integral part of the annual management process.
During the meeting in Seattle, Stewart had told participants that model survey trends were down from previous years both in numbers and weight per unit of effort. He also noted that scientists were seeing mixed trends, relatively flat at coast wide levels with some brighter and some not so good areas across the coastline. Overall the central Gulf of Alaska showed the biggest decrease.
Last year, the IPHC undertook its annual Pacific halibut coastwide stock assessment, including a full re-evaluation of all data sources and models contributing to the assessment. It included adding the 2018 sex-ratio data, estimates of 2019 mortality and an extension of all data sources through 2019 for the final assessment.
Stewart’s report included results of the 2019 stock assessment, which indicate that the Pacific halibut stock declined continuously from the late 1990s to around 2012. That trend is estimated to have been largely the result of decreasing size-at-age, as well as somewhat weaker recruitment strengths than those observed in the 1980s.