Lots of fish refusing to grow up
It might be easier to explain quantum physics in a paragraph than clarify the halibut situation. First, halibut are currently at record abundance in the North Pacific – more individual fish and more pounds (1.8 billion) than ever. Sounds great until we drill down and discover that the majority are under 32 inches (the commercial legal minimum) and these wee-halibut are growing at a pace that would make a snail impatient. The long and short, the harvestable biomass, the poundage of halibut over 32 inches, is very low. Catch limits are based on a percentage (21.5%) of that harvestable biomass. Due to the high percentage of halibut under 32 inches, the catch limits from California to the Bering Sea are down significantly. Regulations in Southeast Alaska will be challenging in 2011 as managers work toward the long term goal of rebuilding the harvestable yield.
2011 Regulations: 1 halibut per day with a maximum size of 37 inches.
Captain Tom, along with other members of the Southeast Alaska Guides Organization (SEAGO – seagoalaska.org), has worked all winter to improve our regulations, but ultimately couldn’t get past the low catch limits. The commercial fleet also took at 47% cut in their catch limit. Now SEAGO will turn our attention to strengthening of the halibut resource and a long term plan for the guided sport fleet to increase our allocation of halibut. We will keep you posted on our progress.