IPHC Halibut Forecast - further declines

Discussion in 'Saltwater Fishing Forum' started by searun, Dec 7, 2019.


What is your preference if Canada gets less halibut TAC?

  1. Keep 2 under 90cm or choice of 1 under 126 cm and March start with early close in August?

    24 vote(s)
  2. Keep same regs as 2019, but start season later in June to protect summer season June - Aug?

    35 vote(s)
  3. Move to only 1 fish from 2, but keep larger size (126cm) - March start with possible early close?

    62 vote(s)
  4. Move to only 1 fish, but keep larger size (126cm) - late start (June) - protect summer season?

    11 vote(s)
  5. Keep 2 fish option, but lower size limit - 2 at 90cm with March start and possible early close

    2 vote(s)
  6. Keep 2 fish option, but lower size limit - 2 at 90cm with late start (June) to protect summer season

    2 vote(s)
  1. searun

    searun Well-Known Member

  2. OldBlackDog

    OldBlackDog Well-Known Member

    Uneven status of Pacific halibut revealed by annual data
    The latest survey data for the Pacific halibut stock was released just before Thanksgiving and revealed a biomass that is declining unevenly coastwide, with females making up nearly the entire catch in the Bering Sea. (Photo/File/AP)
    Following the trend of the past several years, overall Pacific halibut biomass seems to be down again.

    The most recent stock assessment presented to the International Pacific Halibut Commission for its interim meeting on Nov. 25-26 shows a coastwide decline in spawning biomass, though that decline isn’t even across all areas.

    That’s a continuation of a trend seen in stock assessments since 2015. Particularly, surveys have indicated lower numbers of halibut in the central Gulf of Alaska.

    According to the 2019 stock assessment, biologists estimate the spawning biomass at 194 million pounds. It’s not down by much overall, but the impact to regulatory areas isn’t evenly spread; the central Gulf of Alaska, or Area 3A, has been declining fairly steadily since 2004, while Areas 2 and 4 — from British Columbia southward and the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, respectively — have seen increases in the same time period.

    “What you will see here shortly … is that we have mixed trends coastwide. However, (commercial catches per unit of effort are) relatively flat at the coastwide level, with some relatively brighter spots and some relatively not-so-good spots across the coast,” said Ian Stewart, the lead scientist on the IPHC’s stock assessment. “…We’re looking at a period of relatively low productivity for the Pacific halibut stock over the next three years.”

    All signs are pointing, as they have before, to lower fishing yields in order to maintain the target level of intensity on the stock. Overall Pacific halibut landings increased in 2019, coastwide, by a little more than 1 million pounds. That increase is in commercial, with reported mortality for subsistence and recreational fishing flat, according to figures Stewart presented to the IPHC.

    Each year, the IPHC surveys halibut in the management areas to gather data for a stock assessment that will inform the fishing limits set by the IPHC in February, prior to the next season’s opening.

    This year, the biologists also had new data to work with for the assessment to gather more information about the stock: sex. Female halibut are bigger, and have long been estimated to outweigh male fish in the commercial catch by weight, but with definitive data on sex distribution in commercial catches, biologists were able to establish exactly what proportion of the catch was male or female.

    The sex ratio information improves the IPHC’s understanding of the stock dynamics significantly, Stewart said.

    Coastwide, catches are coming in at 82 percent female on average by total number of fish. That’s much higher than they expected, he said.

    “We’ve always known that the commercial catch would be dominated by female by weight, because female Pacific halibut are much larger than males, but in terms of having 82 percent by number, that is quite a bit higher than we would have expected,” he said.

    In some areas, it’s higher. Area 4, which covers the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, the catch was 92 percent female. Areas C, D and E, the Central Bering Sea, were 97 percent female.

    “(The catch is) almost completely females in the Bering Sea fishery,” Stewart said.

    Pacific halibut are broadcast spawners, meaning the females carry the eggs and lay them into the water column, where they are fertilized by males. Biologists don’t think it takes that many males to sufficiently breed to keep up the stock. However, there isn’t a good tool for fishermen to exclusively target male halibut at present, Stewart said.

    In addition to having fewer halibut, their size at age has been declining as well. In the early 1990s, the average halibut weighed more than 30 pounds; since 2010-11, the average weight has been in the mid-20s.

    However, there may be some promise of better numbers down the road. The surveys track halibut age classes as well. To date, the cohort of 1987 — the fish born that year — have been one of the strongest contributors to catches across the coast. In more recent years, the 2005 cohort has dominated catches, and because halibut are multi-year fish, they can be represented for many years as the fish age.

    While some of the other cohorts have been weaker, scientists have been tracking the 2011 and 2012 age classes, which are now starting to show up in catches. Because they’ve been younger, they haven’t been contributing as much to the overall catches so far, but in the future, they may show up more.

    The cohorts aren’t as strong as the 2005 or 1999 age classes, but it is good news, Stewart said.

    One of the factors that biologists think affects recruitment among Pacific halibut is an environmental trend called Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO. PDO describes an environmental phenomenon in the North Pacific similar to the El Nino Southern Oscillation which can last years and describes an oscillation of sea surface temperature and pressure.

    When temperatures near the coast are higher and cooler in the interior, accompanied by below-average pressure, fishery biologists have noted that Pacific halibut tend to have better recruitment. The opposite is true when the temperatures are lower near the coast and higher near the interior, accompanied by above-average sea level pressures, recruitment tends to be lower.

    From 2007-13, the PDO value was described as negative, correlated with lower recruitment. Since 2014, the PDO has had a positive value, which may be mean better recruitment, but scientists won’t know for several years yet, Stewart said.

    The anomalously warm temperatures in the Bering Sea for the last two years may also play a part in Pacific halibut numbers in the future. For the last two years, scientists have noted extremely low sea ice cover in the Bering Sea, accompanied by much warmer sea surface temperatures than normal.

    This summer, residents and the National Marine Fisheries Service noted unusual sea bird and marine mammal die-offs, potentially correlated with ecosystem changes. There have already been some changes to the Pacific cod distribution, and scientists noted a “modest increase” in the density of Pacific halibut in the northern Bering Sea this summer, Stewart said.

    It’s hard to definitively say how the warmer temperatures and lack of sea ice will affect Pacific halibut, but scientists have their eyes on the Bering Sea, he said.

    “We don’t know if (the conditions) are bad yet, but they’re certainly different,” he said.

    Elizabeth Earl can be reached at elizabethearl@gmail.c
  3. SerengetiGuide

    SerengetiGuide Well-Known Member

    See how much we get. If rec sector gets say 50-80k less (all theoretical as hard to know how it’ll play out) I say keep same regs open later. Last season was an anomaly with the weather as we all know. That had to result in at least a 10% increase. Combine that with closing lodges and less pressure and I’m sure the season will last to September anyway with same regs assuming not a drastic (20% for example) reduction

    edit: just read article and it seems B.C. remains a strong point in halibut numbers and trends. And it’s not all doom and gloom as future more smaller fish showing up in survey which was sticking point last year from my understanding. My vote remains for same regs, maybe May start!

    I do HIGHLY disagree with the premise we would close early with same regs and reduction though if a somewhat later start.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
    ILHG and wildmanyeah like this.
  4. ziggy

    ziggy Well-Known Member

    I’m not sure I’d personally prefer any of the listed options. I’d like to see a little more modelling done with openings where openings were every second month, or like pulse fishing open half a month closed for half a month. The summer seems to be where the biggest harvest happens so it would make more sense to control the openings during the peak seasons. Having said that though, I appreciate this would impact lodges and guides and that would need to be looked at as well. Could they operate with say only a June, August or July September or half of June ,July ,August opening or would that be catastrophic for them?

    The options listed here all seem to be about protecting the Summer season which is obviously more important to some than others I would hope that at some point a more diverse set of options will be developed even if it doesn’t involve complete protection of the Summer season.
  5. SerengetiGuide

    SerengetiGuide Well-Known Member

    More important for well over 95% of those that buy a saltwater license.

    Yes I realize more important to me too but it’s not just some than others. It’s vast vast vast majority that fish during those months.
  6. fogged in

    fogged in Well-Known Member

    My preference is we stay with the 2019 regs with the same early opening which benefits those fishing Victoria and Sooke with only a small impact on the annual quota.
    The sports fishing season is still open so I guess we have yet to fill our quota?
    I do not believe that option existed in your survey questions.
    terrin likes this.
  7. ziggy

    ziggy Well-Known Member

    95% seems kind of a stretch! Are you suggesting 95% of the license holders fish Halibut in the summer season only? I get that the lodges and guides may do 95% of their business then, but have to question how that equates to 95% of all saltwater license holders. If their is data to suggest this I stand corrected.
    I’d also suggest the poll would be helpful if it also asked are you an employee of a lodge or professional guide in order to put things into perspective.
    terrin and fogged in like this.
  8. Rockfish

    Rockfish Well-Known Member

    You are correct, as is Ziggy in his questioning of the self serving and in my view blatant manipulated 95%. This comes up like clockwork this time of year as certain commercial sport sector interests up north and on the west coast continue to attempt to grab more than their share of the sport pie or share less in the pain when it is called for. Every year it gets beat back and we end up with keeping the minimally impactful early season which is critical to those who fish South VI including the independent guides in the Victoria/Sooke area. Certain big lodges in particular and some guides in those areas, want to maximize both size and daily and possession limits for the main summer months they are open and could care less about the rest of the year or the interest of other anglers. Perhaps understandable as any business wants to maximize profits. Hopefully common sense and fairness will prevail as it always has in the past, but that doe not seem to stop them from trying.

    In fairness it is not just certain sport commercial interests. There is also some dynamic tension between the many west cost resident anglers and those who come out with their boats mid summer and want to catch and take back as much as they can during that short summer vacation. They of course also tend to favor putting as much fish access into that mid summer period as can be gotten.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
    fogged in likes this.
  9. Aces

    Aces Well-Known Member

    A68290F7-D9BF-429B-86E3-CA817E04B45C.png Here we go again
    chromatose007 likes this.
  10. Confused

    Confused Active Member

    Do we have results from this past season up until this point. How close are we to using our existing TAC? I would want to know that before talking about changes.
    terrin and fogged in like this.
  11. SerengetiGuide

    SerengetiGuide Well-Known Member

    common sense math tells you that. 300,000 licenses sold. 140,000 or so fish halibut from stats. Are you trying to tell me 10,000 locals fish halibut in March April and October. You’re full of it. Come on man.
    Wooly and Eden Island like this.
  12. wildmanyeah

    wildmanyeah Crew Member

    It's not a small impact thats why delaying it gives more of a summer season. If it was a small impact delaying it would be pointless. This is the only data i've seen this season and its till the end of june. More areas then just Victoria and Sooke are fishing early in the season.

  13. fogged in

    fogged in Well-Known Member

    [QUOTE="wildmanyeah, post: 962245, member: 9746" More areas then just Victoria and Sooke are fishing early in the season.
    View attachment 49341 [/QUOTE]

    Can you tell where, how many fishermen and how many halibut are taken in the month of March other then the Victoria Sooke area?
  14. wildmanyeah

    wildmanyeah Crew Member

  15. Rockfish

    Rockfish Well-Known Member

    Every year it is the same repetitive arguments and frankly this numbers game you are trying to sell and utilize to justify what would amount to great harm to the south VI Halibut Fishery, by eliminating the early season, is a red herring.

    So in simple terms let me explain to you, as I understand it, why the early season is so critical to us, why it has been retained in the past, and quite frankly, why eliminating it would be of only minimal benefit to you and a few other sport commercial sector fishing interests and their clients in remote areas, while causing great harm to us.

    Our Halibut fishery is substantively different than yours. South Vancouver Island has the highest population density by far of any area of the province that actually has a Halibut fishery and many anglers who want to fish for them, all the more so because we have taken such a huge hit on salmon fishing.

    While we have a commercial sport sector it is not huge. Most who fish for them are resident angers in comparatively smaller boats to the big guide boats. Further as this is a retirement town, there are a lot of seniors fishing. We have a great many days when it is impossible for us to fish Halibut, because unlike some areas if you are going to be successful, you need to anchor up in deep to very deep water. That is not safe to do in smaller boats with the massive currents, wind, fog and heavy commercial traffic in JDF, compounded by the closure of some of our Halibut grounds to the west for Whale Closure Zones.

    We need a longer season because there are a great many days in a month when we simply cannot fish them at all. Further the early season is usually the most productive Halibut fishing we have, especially before the dogfish move in, in huge numbers and our Halibut fishery is known to slow down in the summer, at the very time the professional commercial sport operators are out slaying them for their clients in large numbers in other areas. Beyond that for various reasons we are as a group not highly successful, I myself have put only 0ne halibut on my license so far this fishing year. I think it is fair to say that it is more challenging here for us to be successful and that early season is critical.

    My understanding is that when the numbers are actually crunched, it becomes obvious that eliminating our spring Halibut fishing would have only a minimal impact on the ability to make things better in terms of larger fish and greater numbers of fish that some are able to catch and retain for their clients in other areas. So every year we go through this, but when it comes down to the meetings it is obvious to all involved that leaving the spring Halibut fishery open is the correct and fair thing to do and while it has been grudgingly accepted, it has always been accepted even by those who would like to be able to make their clients a little bit happier by being able to get a picture on the dock with a Halibut that is a few centimeters longer or need a slightly bigger cooler to haul home the meat from their trip to Canada.

    So I ask, Is that really what you want, to do major damage, if not destroy our Halibut fishery so you can take a picture of a Halibut that is a few centimeters longer for your client.
  16. halimark

    halimark Well-Known Member

    How is our numbers taken, I was flown over many times last year with no hali on board. Is the same BS math being applied so I was given fish by DFO? I do know how busy the early season is to SVI areas. I stated many times that I think this may be Vic hali undoing. Can the area really sustain so many boats anchored on every small reef, hump, bank and hole for every slow current? I think not but that's just me. I vote for nothing at this time until numbers are released. I failed at speculation, and don't even try to understand DFO.

  17. SpringVelocity

    SpringVelocity Well-Known Member

    Can't just cater to what one area wants. Not fair to rest of the BC Coast.

    That goes for all areas. All areas are going to have compromise this upcoming year. If VI wants an early season than it would have to give up the fall. Can't have it both ways. Not even sure that would work anyways with what Pat is saying....

    Not good with this news.

    For record I fish for halibut in Victoria, but also fish up island. I am fine with getting my halibut in spring, but also recognize that other fisheries need to open for summer months.
  18. Rockfish

    Rockfish Well-Known Member

    Now that would really open up a can of worms. Sport Halibut as I understand it has always been managed on a coast wide basis. If you are suggesting moving to area specific management and allocations you may want to think long and hard about that, as the outcomes could be unexpected.
  19. SpringVelocity

    SpringVelocity Well-Known Member

    That isn't what I am implying. Your asking to open the season early. I am in agreement. What I am saying is South island can't say to rest of North I want it open early and then want it open in fall with same sizes. That isn't going to work. I say close it down late August and be done with it. Both sides would have to compromise on that.

    Only other choices are smaller halibut sizes again, and South VI will not want that.
  20. Bod

    Bod Well-Known Member

    You don't have a clue what the Tac will be but your choices say there would be an early closure? I think it's best we wait and see.
    trophywife likes this.

Share This Page