U44:O80, NO Annual Limit

The news you have all been waiting for is this season’s catch allocation.  At the December Council meeting, we suggested that Southeast management measures at the Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR) or higher not have an annual limit, and have a reverse slot limit of O80 and a lower limit of U40 or higher.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) held its Annual Meeting this week in Vancouver, British Columbia, to determine catch for 2017.  The amount allocated for guided sportfishing is 915,000lbs, resulting in the above described suggested management measure taking effect.  Based on the ADFG analysis, the IPHC-approved final measure is a reverse slot limit of U44:O80 and no annual limit.  The overall catch for 2C, divided between commercial and guided sportfishing, is 5,250,000.  This is after unguided sport, subsistence, and bycatch are removed from the equation.

This is great news, as the two harvest policy suggestions implied that 2C catch would be reduced slightly for 2017.  This implied reduction confused many people in 2C, where the charter sector came in 13% under its allocation in 2016.  The IPHC staff explained during the Annual Meeting that while the overall stock has remained steady, area 2C decisions must also take into account stock distribution.  The percentage of the halibut stock in Area 2 has decreased slightly this year to 2015 levels, creating the implied reduction at the earlier IPHC meeting.

Area 3A management measures for 2017 are as follows:

  • 2 fish daily bag limit, with one fish less than or equal to 28″
  • 3 closed Tuesdays between July 18-Aug 1
  • Closed Wednesdays
  • Status quo trip limits of 1 per day
  • 4 fish annual limit

“The Blue Line is a tool that has outlived its usefulness.” -Paul Ryall, Canadian IPHC Commissioner

For those of you who have followed the IPHC decision process, the term “blue line” might be a familiar, and frustrating, one.  Tuesday’s meeting began with a review of the existing Harvest Policy and Blue Line numbers, calling the policy outdated, overly complicated, inconsistent, and frequently misunderstood.  Staff and Advisory Boards are reviewing alternative policy approaches, including one based on the Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR).  During the comments section, Commissioner Ryall received a round of applause when he said he would be fine with never referring to the blue line again.

This overhaul is in addition to positive advancements in surveys and stock assessments, resulting in more accurate survey results and weighing of various stock modeling methods.  We are excited to see where the IPHC will go from here, and what other improvements they are making for the future!