IPHC Announces 2018 Halibut Quota

LogoDateline: January 26th 2018 — Portland, Oregon annual meeting of International Pacific Halibut Commission

The six IPHC commissioners, three U.S. and three Canadian, did not come to an agreement about catch quotas. Canadian commissioners did not agree with lower catch rates because of Alaskan trawl bycatch issues as well as other methods of calculating stocks.

The quota for each area is noted below. However, because the commission did not agree with quotas, further process must be made with other Federal Fisheries Management agencies. This process will take time, but the numbers below are what the U.S. Commissioners have recommended for implementation.

2A — 1.32

2B (Canada) 7.10

2C — 6.34

3A — 12.54

3B 3.27

4A 1.74

4B 1.28

4CD&E 3.622018 quota

Note: TCEY means, Total Constant Exploitation Yield

FCEY means, Fishery Constant Exploitation Yield

Last Year’s quota in TCEY2017 QuotaIPHC Regulatory Area Zones Below

Regions

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Why Are Halibut Stocks Declining?

During the International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting in Portland, I’ve learned many facts, figures, issues, problems and most shockingly, a big reason for declining juvenile halibut numbers.

The Bering Sea in Alaska is the major halibut spawning area and the Bering Sea Shelf, an area that expands for miles, is prime juvenile halibut habitat. Many years ago the IPHC created a massive “Closed” area in this mostly flat sandy area in an effort to provide a nursery for these young halibut. And according to IPHC tagging records, these juvenile halibut from this area migrate throughout Alaska, B.C., Washington, Oregon and into California. As one IPHC researcher told me, “These are everyone’s halibut.”

Closed Area

What a great idea, to have a closed area to allow juveniles to thrive without commercial or recreation activity. But here’s the problem, IPHC can only restrict halibut anglers within their convention, which means they have no control over the trawl industry. The commercial trawl industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that targets groundfish that include yellowfin sole, arrowtooth flounder, etc. They drag the bottom and capture their targeted species as well as juvenile halibut, the very halibut this area was intended to protect.

In 2017 the trawl fleet killed, as by-catch, 867 metric tons of halibut! That’s 1.9 million pounds of halibut — a number larger than Area 2A’s halibut quota. These juvenile halibut average four to six pounds. Using the high number of six, that’s a total of 316,667 small halibut.

This is what’s happening to our halibut recruitment — BIG billion dollar business is killing our juvenile halibut — the future of the fishery.

How can we stop this?

The only way this massacre can stop is to convince the National Marine Fisheries Service to acknowledge this closed area and stop trawling in this closed area. But, as you may or may not know, the National Marine Fisheries Service  is an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the Department of Commerce. Department of Commerce equals BIG business. Maybe when the halibut fishery declines to a point of collapse NMFS might come to their senses and do what’s right for the halibut fishery and conservation.

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International Pacific Halibut Commission Meeting

LogoI’m at the IPHC meeting in Portland, representing Area 2A, Puget Sound Anglers. There’s lots and lots of mathematical tables to calculate each regions potential catch based on surveys, mortality rates etc. The biggest thing driving this meeting is last year’s IPHC sampling/stock assessment of Pacific Halibut. In all regions all user groups testified to excellent catches last season. However, the 2017 stock assessment shows declines in the stock that has everyone worried.

Let’s take a look at the survey, but please note, last year the survey, which consists of contracted long line boats setting “skates” of gear which measure 1,800 feet with a 16/0 circle hook ever 18 feet baited with chum salmon. IPHC has hundreds of check areas and added several in each area this year. Unlike the last stock assessment, they surveyed Washington State four months later, in August, at a time when the Northwest Coast experienced a Hypoxia event. Hypoxia refers to low or depleted oxygen in a water body and generally disrupts the area and creates a “Dead Zone.”

As you can imagine, survey results showed extremely lower numbers of halibut in the area compared to the last survey. Makah Tribal biologists and council members testified that area 2A off the coast did have strong numbers of halibut earlier in the season and disputed the survey.

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The image above shows where the Area 2A survey took place as well as showing the hypoxia zone.

Now, as a result, Area 2A faces massive cuts in harvest, unless the Area user groups agree to keep our harvest level, all users, at the same level as last year. Without the support of the Makah Tribe, and other effected Tribes, we sportsman don’t stand a prayer. Tribes have far more leverage because of Treaties to argue for Area 2A than sportsman. Sport fishing quota is determined by Area 2A’s overall quota.

During testimony yesterday, the Makah testified about their culturally important fishery to their economy and community as well as the sport fishing community that also brings a great deal of money into their community.

Today is an important day as testimony will be heard on proposals as well as Area quotas. My testimony will include the following bullet points that will be explained in detail.

  •  15,000 Puget Sound Angler members, most of which own boats
  • U.S. Congressional District 6 Economic Impact From Fishing, 126,892 anglers who spend approximately $125.4 million dollars supporting 1,713 jobs
  • U.S. Congressional District 3 Economic Impact From Fishing, 124,750 anglers who spend approximately $123.3 million dollars supporting 1,684 jobs

As you can see, sports anglers contribute BIG dollars to the economy. Wish me luck with my testimony. Below are some of the images used during the meeting.

One of the most critical figures introduced is the trend of “recruits” and lack of breeding age halibut. The image below shows strong years of recruit halibut and we are now coming into low years of recruits as shown in the graph.9

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Washington Halibut Catch Record Card Senate Bill

Yesterday at the Washington State Senate,  Senator VanDeWege introduced Senate Bill 6127, a bill that would help sport halibut anglers. In short, the bill would impose a $5 fee for a halibut catch record card. By charging a fee it would drastically reduce the actual amount of halibut anglers to about 10,000 active anglers. Currently WDFW issues over 250,000 annually. WDFW then uses these numbers in their metrics to try and calculate our annual catch. Please read my last post about this issue. https://halibutchronicles.com/2018/01/19/wdfws-mismanagement-of-halibut-proven/

Michele Culver, who works for WDFW in the Intergovernmental Ocean Policy Department and is in charge of Washington halibut management testified that halibut catch record cards “We currently don’t use catch record cards for management, we use port sampling..” said Michele Culver. She later said catch record cards aren’t timely and the catch record card is only used as a “ground truthing” method to see if the cards match their port reporting data. At a meeting at the International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting in Portland yesterday, former WDFW Wildlife Director Phil Anderson said halibut catch record cards are a waste of time.

Here’s my take on this issue and why these two bureaucrats don’t want a halibut catch record card. As mentioned in my previous post, WDFW uses a metrics to help calculate how many halibut anglers there are and how many halibut get caught during halibut days. If we switch to a paid halibut catch record card the numbers of halibut anglers drop from 250,000 “potential” halibut anglers to about 10,000 “actual” halibut anglers. That’s a huge drop and would drastically effect WDFW metrics that calculate our catch which result in far less catches than previously reported, thus increasing the amount of days to fish for halibut. This would prove what we sports anglers have been saying for years, WDFW overestimates how many halibut we catch.

According to WDFW, in 2016 sport halibut anglers caught 5,337 total halibut during an eight day season. That’s 667 halibut per day! While WDFW claims these numbers are accurate, they also admit fish checkers did not see all of these fish but did use their metrics to calculate these numbers.

If WDFW officials don’t value catch record cards why do we have them for any species?

WDFW currently has technology to implement an electronic reporting system for halibut anglers that would give fishery managers a fast, accurate accounting of actual catch rates during the halibut season. Last year they implemented the Canadian Salmon Trip Notification using their website. This technology could be used for halibut anglers. When halibut catch record card holders catch a halibut they would have a pre-determined amount of time, say 24 to 72 hours to report their catch online. All they would have to do is change some fields in the form to accommodate halibut anglers which could include inches long which would give more accurate accounts of not only how many fish sports anglers catch but pounds of halibut. Please check out their web page that features this technology. https://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/canadian_catch.php

 

 

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WDFW’s Mismanagement of Halibut Proven!

That’s a strongly worded headline in this post, but it’s true and I can prove it. Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife have been screwing halibut anglers for years with their bogus, made up numbers to impose catch rates on sports anglers that simply are not true.

Here’s how it works and has worked for years. WDFW counts how many halibut anglers based on how many licenses sold that include a halibut catch record card. The catch record card is free, so most saltwater bound anglers just get everything. Why not, it’s free and most store employees suggest they get everything that’s free. WDFW then takes the number of halibut catch record card holders and plugs that number of “potential” halibut anglers into their metrics that calculate how many halibut get caught. They also use fish checkers as well as airplanes to count boats. These metrics set our amount of days we can fish for halibut.

Here’s the dirty secret, which in my opinion is malfeasance of the fishery. Definition of malfeasance: the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law; wrongdoing (used especially of an act in violation of a public trust)

Halibut fishing for the past several years has set dates. By July 1st there’s no halibut fishing available in Washington waters, period! Now here’s the damming evidence of malfeasance. WDFW sold 102,030 saltwater fishing licenses that included halibut catch record cards on the license after July 1st through October. As you can see from the chart below, sales numbers are not included for November through March, which is the curent licensing year. If history repeats, approximately 5,000 to 6,000 halibut catch record cards will be sold on the current fishing license without a halibut season. That’s approximately 108,000 halibut catch record cards sold for the current fishing license.

This increases  numerically but not actually the number of halibut anglers. In short, as many of us have been claiming for years, WDFW overstates how many halibut anglers there are as well as the halibut sport caught catch which reduces our opportunities drastically.

Halibut Catch Record CardsThe fix is simple.

First off, WDFW needs to have their fishing license vendor computer program the system to stop offering and printing the halibut catch record card portion of the license as soon as the halibut season is finished for the year, which usually amounts to several months. Remember, WDFW fishing licenses begin April 1st through March 31st.

Secondly, WDFW needs to charge a fee for halibut catch record cards to eliminate anglers who get it on their license and likely never fish for halibut. This will further reduce the amount of numeric halibut anglers that WDFW fisheries managers count into the halibut catch metrics. Those who purchase the halibut catch record card will likely fish for halibut and establish the actual number of halibut anglers. A source within the WDFW estimates only 10,000 halibut anglers will purchase a halibut catch record card because that’s how many actually participate. In defense of WDFW, they can’t easily speculate numbers down when so many anglers choose the free option for the current license system.

Washington State Senator VanDeWege is sponsoring a bill that would establish a stand-alone halibut catch record card for a proposed fee of $5.  There is a  public hearing on the halibut bill set for next Monday, January 22, in Olympia.   Unfortunately, I’m going to be arriving in Portland about then for the IPHC meeting so I won’t be able to attend.  I’d suggest an emails to Sen. VanDeWege in support of the bill from you would be appropriate.   His email address is:  vandewege.kevin@leg.wa.gov

Also, please contact your local State Senator and Representative to support this important bill and ask them to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill with Senator VanDeWege.

Here is a link to the legislative website that allows you to send your comments to your legislators and provide a copy to Senator VanDeWege:

http://leg.wa.gov/legislature/Pages/MemberEmailHelp.aspx

If you’d like to follow this bill click this link. http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=6127&Year=2017

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Halibut fishing waypoint 54, Strait of Juan de Fuca, B.C. Canada, May 22 2017.

Posted in British Columbia Halibut Fishing, Canada Halibut Fishing, Halibut Fishing Tackle, Halibut Fishing Tips, Halibut Fishing Videos, Strait of Juan de Fuca Halibut Fishing, Washington Halibut Fishing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Halibut Fishing Strait of Juan de Fuca, This is What We Caught Yesterday!

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