From our friend, Dave Croonquist
Eastern Region (MA 6-10)
Western Region (MA 5)
Here’s a short update about the Puget Sound halibut meeting held today in Olympia. The meeting was run by Michele Culver and Heather Reed.
There was an overview of the 2014 Puget Sound catch estimate. Final numbers aren’t in due to problems with the methodology being used. Early numbers would indicate that we are getting better at catching halibut and our 2014 catch rate was probably higher than 2013. WDFW has requested a grant to do an intensive sampling effort this spring to ground-truth the estimated effort from the phone survey. More information will be coming out later.
There was discussion on the 2A Total Allowed Catch (TAC) and subarea quotas. The report was the 2A was going to get 750,000 lbs of halibut due to declining biomass levels. WA, CA, and OR were able to use our restricted fisheries seasons and had the IPHC give 2A an additional 220,000 lbs of halibut giving 2A a total of 970,000 lbs – a 10,000 lb increase over 2013. The breakdown of the 2A quota is 339,500 lbs for the tribal fisheries and 630,500 lbs for the non-tribal fisheries. The non-tribal breakdown is 203,912 lbs for the commercial fishery, WA sport gets 214,110 lbs (same as last year), OR sport gets 187,259 lbs, and CA sport gets 25,220 lbs.
The 2015 season dates were discussed. Because of our estimated harvest in 2014, we will be fishing 11 days in MA 6-10 and 8 days in MA 5. The season dates are:
There will be some overlap on the ocean fishery days. That should help spread out some of the pressure.
The proposal of going to a set season and an annual bag limit was discussed. The folks fishing the ocean did not want a general season structure and made a good argument for maintaining their current structure. There will be a meeting with WDFW to discuss possibilities of going to a season structure and an annual bag limit for the Puget Sound fisheries. Michele Culver will be doing a poll about possible dates for a meeting to start the discussion. It will not be easy. The IPHC sideboards are pretty tight and, as is the case when the feds are involved, the state can be more restrictive in its regulations, but it can’t be more liberal. That said, the IPHC and NMFS set the season dates for fishing and the allowed poundage. WDFW, per Michele’s acknowledgement today, can set the seasons within the federal framework. At this time, we don’t know what might be possible. We could well end up with the same seasons we’ve had for the past 6 years or we could get an annual personal limit and more time to catch it. Should be interesting discussions.