Pacific halibut catches for this year were cut by 7.5 percent – not the 30 percent most had feared. A coast wide catch of 31 million pounds was approved last Friday by the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Alaska’s share is 23 million pounds, down 2.5 million from 2012.
None of the proposed regulatory changes made it past the Commissioners this year. Among them: a request to have less invasive circle hooks as the only legal halibut gear. US Commissioner Jim Balsiger…
Balsiger: “Circle hooks are used by a lot of the gear already. So we are going to ask Halibut Commission staff to work on a public outreach mode, and to develop materials working with sportfish groups, commercial groups, to provide education on how circle hooks might be used more efficiently and more broadly through the industry.”
Southeast is the only Alaska region to get an increased halibut catch to about 3 three million pounds, up 13 percent. The Central Gulf 11 million pound catch is down seven percent; it’s a 15 percent drop for the Western Gulf at 4.3 million pounds. Halibut catches in Bering Sea regions all top one million pounds. Jim Balsiger put industry on notice that that the outlook for future halibut fisheries is quite bleak.
Balsiger: “We made a small step in a conservation direction this year, we reduced the catch by some 2 ¼ million pounds – but I don’t think it is likely that we will be able to retain those small steps towards conservation into the future.”
The Pacific halibut fishery this year will run from March 22 through November 7th.