More Pacific halibut will be going to market this year due to an overall boost in the harvests for the West Coast, British Columbia and Alaska. The coast wide catch of 31.4 million pounds reflects a 5.1 percent increase, and for the first time in decades, not a single fishing region met with a decline in halibut catches.
The heartening news was released on Friday by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, overseer of the stocks since 1923.
Halibut catch limits are determined by summer surveys at more than 1,200 stations from Oregon to the Aleutians. In 2016, the results showed the stock had remained stable over a span of three years, although the fish remained small for their ages.
Alaska always gets the lion’s share of the Pacific halibut catch and a take of 22.62 million pounds this year adds up to an extra million pounds for longliners who hold quota shares of the fish.
The good news has been dampened somewhat by a potential delay to the March 11 start of the fishery due to the bureaucratic freeze by our new president.
On January 20, Donald Trump issued a memo to all federal departments and agencies to freeze new or pending regulations until his administration has time to look them over.
That includes the rules for running the federally-managed Pacific halibut fishery.
Also potentially stalled is the use of pots to catch sablefish, or black cod, in the Gulf of Alaska. That gear was ok’d starting this year by federal advisors to prevent sperm whales from snatching the fish from hooks.
“The National Marine Fisheries Service is working to determine the impacts of the Executive Order on our Alaska Region rule making actions,” said Rachel Baker, fisheries management in Juneau.
Here are the 2017 halibut catch limits for Alaska in millions of pounds, provided by the Halibut Coalition:
Southeast Alaska: 5.25m, a 6.1 percent increase
Central Gulf: 10m, a 4.2 percent increase
Western Gulf: 3.14m, a 15.9 percent increase
Aleutians regions remain flat at 1.39m and 1.14m
Bering Sea: 1.70m, a 2.4 percent increase