IPHC recommends lower halibut catch limits for 2017

Proposed 2017 staff blue line catch limit is 13 percent less than the 2016 quota.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) discussed several options for the 2017 halibut catch limits on Tuesday at its interim meeting, including the IPHC staff blue line estimates, which is the current harvest policy.

At the IPHC's annual meeting in January, the conference board and processor advisory groups (PAG) will present their recommendations after which the commission will determine a quota.

The 2017 blue line recommendation puts halibut catch limits at 26.12 million pounds, down 2 percent compared to the 2016 blue line estimate of 26.7 million. Last year, the IPHC set the quota at 29.89 million pounds, 12 percent above the blue line estimate.

This year, according to the breakdown of the 2017 blue line estimate, commercial landings would total 22.05 million pounds with 7.28 million pounds for the 3A area, the largest harvesting area for halibut.

Last year the quota for 3A was dropped to 9.6 million pounds, down from 10.1 million pounds. With the blue line recommendation, the quota would be 24 percent less than the 2016 season. 

Here's a look at what the proposed quotas for each fishing area based on the blue line recommendation:

The FCEY -- or fishing constant exploitation yield -- is the number of fish that can be harvested without leading to overfishing. The FCEY total number includes commercial landings, bycatch, recreational and personal or subsistence fishing.

IPHC presentations showed halibut stock is increasing, although slowly, and the 2017 spawning biomass is estimated to be 212 million pounds.

The commercial season runs from March through November in Alaska.

This year, commercial fishermen landed 23.98 million pounds, which includes halibut used for research. Of that total, Canada landed 6.1 million pounds and the United States landed 17.9 million pounds.

Halibut bycatch down

The 100-year average is 63 million pounds of halibut removed each year. This year, 60 percent was removed through commercial fishing and 17 percent through bycatch.

In 2016, a total of 41.89 million pounds of halibut was removed, of which 25.03 million pounds were landed and 7.1 million pounds were bycatch.

---

For more seafood news and updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for our daily newsletter.