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Commercial Halibut Bycatch

Here is a snippet from the Anchorage Daily News today 12/3/2016
The bycatch needs to be lowered!

The Pacific Ocean halibut population appears to have stabilized, but that may not equate to higher catches.

That was a take-home message last week when International Pacific Halibut Commission staff unveiled summer survey results showing that the overall stock declined a bit, and most of the fish remain small for their ages.

But the fact that halibut catches have remained relatively stable the last three years is encouraging for a stock that was on a downward trend for nearly two decades.

Commission biologist Ian Stewart described the Pacific halibut fishery as being “fully subscribed” among diverse users.

About 60 percent of the removals from the halibut stock are coming from commercial fishing, with about 17 percent from recreation, 17 percent from bycatch in nonhalibut fisheries, and about 3 percent each coming from fish wasted, personal use and subsistence, Stewart said.

Another survey finding, he said, was declining halibut bycatch.

“We’ve seen a substantial reduction in bycatch from almost 9 million pounds in 2014 to about 7 million pounds in 2016,” he said.

That is little comfort to halibut fishermen who could see a 12.6 percent coastwide (U.S. and Canada) drop in catches next year, from 29.9 million pounds to 26.1 million pounds, according to modeling and survey work funded by the International Halibut Commission.

For Southeast, the catch could decrease by 17.4 percent to 3.2 million pounds. For the Central Gulf, a 0.8 percent drop to 7.3 million pounds is projected.

The Western Gulf could see a 17.4 percent increase just over 3 million pounds. Catch estimates for Bering halibut fishing regions may show a 1.8 percent increase.

The IPHC will make final decisions at its annual meeting Jan. 23-27 in Victoria, British Columbia. Comments and proposals on 2017 catch limits will be accepted through Dec. 3. The halibut fishery reopens in March.

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