No agreement yet on conservation cuts in halibut harvest

Photo by Cinthia Gibbins-Stimson/The Cordova Times.

Commercial fishing for halibut opens on March 24 and runs through Nov. 7, with no decision reached by the International Pacific Halibut Commission at its annual meeting in Portland, Ore., on conservation cuts for 2018.

NOAA Fisheries is considering the implications of the IPHC meeting and now trying to determine what steps to take, and some are hoping the impasse may yet be resolved by an additional IPHC meeting soon.

Bob Alverson, general manager of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association in Seattle, and one of three U.S. commissioners, is one of those hoping for another meeting soon.  “I think we have an excellent corps of scientists and the inability of the commissioners to come to an agreement is unfortunate,” he said. “I think it is worth one more shot for the commissioners to try to figure it out. I knew it was going to be difficult going in to it.”

Back in 2014 harvest reductions put in place included 33 percent in Area 3A, 30 percent in Area 3B, 42 percent in 4A, 20 percent in 4B and 20 percent in 2C, but Canada did not take such aggressive reductions, Alverson said.  That done, U.S. percentage reductions are less for this year, while Canada needed almost a 42 percent reduction and it was too much to bite off, he said.

Some 31 million pounds of halibut were harvested commercially last year, including about 8 million pounds in Canada and 22 million pounds in the U.S., with an average price to harvesters of $6.50 per pound. That added up to about $130 million to $140 million for U.S. harvesters and about $70 million for Canadian harvesters.