Halibut catch limits for 2020 have been trimmed overall by seven percent by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, with the Central Gulf of Alaska, Area 3A, allocated a harvest of 7.05 million pounds, down 12.53 percent from 8.06 million pounds in 2019.
The largest area percentage cut was for Area CDE, the Bering Sea, where the quota was cut 15.20 percent, from 2.04 million pounds to 1.73 million pounds. Area 4A, in the Aleutians, likewise received a 14.55 percent cut, from 1.65 million pounds in 2019 to 1.41 million pounds for 2020.
The IPHC’s harvest limit decisions were announced on Friday, Feb. 7, in Anchorage, at the conclusion of the commission’s annual meeting in Anchorage.
“It’s going to be hard for all of us, but given where the resource is at, it is necessary. We have to do it,” said Marc Carrel, groundfish chairman for Cordova District Fishermen United, as he read the 2020 catch limits posted on a screen at the meeting room in the Hotel Captain Cook. “It will be hard for everyone to take this cut, but it’s not as bad of a cut as we feared.”
Heather McCarty, a long-time consultant to the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, agreed.
“Clearly this is better, and it allows folks to survive another year while we are waiting for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to deal with bycatch issues through the abundance-based management program,” she said,
“The current (bycatch) cap is what we call a static cap,” she said. “Every other major species managed by the council is based on abundance of that species. We’ve been working on it since 2015. It has taken this long to get where we are. We anticipate we are getting closer to the time when it might go into effect.”
Even with these cuts, there remains unresolved the issue of bycatch of halibut in other directed commercial fisheries. While the IPHC sets the catch limits, it is the North Pacific Fishery Management Council that determines limits on bycatch.
Spokespersons or several commercial fisheries entities are hoping that later this year the federal fisheries council will adjust bycatch levels in line with abundance. That change would allow for the bycatch limits to be adjusted annually, dependent on the overall abundance of the resource in various fishing areas from California, Washington and Oregon north to Alaska.