It looks like halibut fishermen on the Pacific Coast of the US and Canada will see more cuts to their catch limits next year in most areas except Southeast Alaska where there could be another small increase.
Scientists with the International Pacific Halibut Commission presented their 2013 stock assessment and catch limit options for 2014 during the commission’s interim meeting in Seattle Wednesday.
For the last couple years, the staff has taken a different approach to this. Prior to 2013, they recommended a single set of limits for the various regulatory areas. Now, they provide a range of alternatives along with the potential impacts each could have on halibut stocks.
Yet the scientists still focus on one set of potential limits called the “blue line.” It represents the commission’s longstanding policy of harvesting a certain percentage of the legal-sized halibut estimated for each regulatory area.
Under the “blue line” levels that staff presented for 2014, the coast-wide catch would total 24-and-a-half million pounds. That’s down from 31 million pounds last year. However, the numbers are not directly comparable. That’s because, for the first time, they’ve included additional amounts for halibut wastage as well as sport-charter fleet catch limits for Southeast and the Central Gulf. That’s in anticipation of a new regulatory plan for those areas in 2014. Subtracting those newly-added factors, the total, coast-wide catch would be down about 30 percent from this year.
Southeast Alaska is the only region that would see any increase. Under the blue line scenario, the Southeast commercial limit would go up about 11 percent to just over three-point-three million pounds in 2014. The area saw similar bumps up in each of the past two years. However, those increases followed a half decade of cuts that reduced the regions catch by nearly 80 percent.
The blue line scenario for the central gulf calls for a commercial catch of 7-point-3 million pounds, which would be a cut of about 33 percent from this year. On top of that, guided anglers in that area would be allocated just under 1-point-8 million pounds of halibut. The Southeast guided sector would get 760 thousand pounds.
Among the other regulatory areas, the blue line option puts the British Columbia catch at just under 5 million pounds which would be a drop of 29 percent from this year.
The IPHC will decide on the 2014 catch limits during its annual meeting which starts on January 13th in Seattle. Meanwhile, You can listen to the audio and view the presentations from the interim meeting here.