Halibut catches weren’t slashed as much as people feared, although they still continue on a downward trend — and the outlook is grim.
A coastwide catch of 31 million pounds was approved Friday by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, a decline of 7.5 percent from last year and far better than a widely expected 30 percent cut. Alaska’s share of the Pacific catch is 23 million pounds, down 2.5 million pounds.
The commissioners, three from the U.S. and three from Canada, each said the 2013 annual meeting last week was the toughest ever.
“I vote for the fish,” said U.S. Commissioner Ralph Hoard at the close of the meeting. “Many questions remain about halibut bycatch and migration. While I am extremely sympathetic about the impacts on fishermen’s economics, I am equally concerned about their future in this fishery. We don’t want to end up like the East coast halibut fishery. There is none.”