Halibut regulations for guided fishing in Southeast Alaska in 2014 are now cast in stone. The daily limit remains one and there is no annual limit. We have a reverse slot limit again. You can keep halibut that are under 44 inches and over 76 inches. The number that matters for the overwhelming majority of fish landed is 44 inches. For the past two years, that lower number was 45 inches.
Why the change? It’s all about math. The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) determines how many halibut can be sustainably harvested and the charter fleet gets a percentage of that number. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game builds statistical models into which they plug numbers for the lower number, 44 inches in this case and the upper number. The under 44 inch, over 76 inch regulation lands us at our below our quota according to the model. It’s not exactly simple math, but it is math.
The IPHC is taking an increasingly conservative approach to halibut harvests with the purpose of rebuilding the stocks. The commercial harvest has come down over 70% in the past 7 years in Southeast Alaska. If the biology and math work out, the stocks should begin a slow rise over the next few years and we’ll start adding inches. And, don’t go pessimistic – this is an exercise in conserving and growing a robust resource. We find plenty of halibut out there and fishing for them is excellent. Pacific halibut are sustainably and conservatively managed. Making sacrifices to keep the stock healthy is part of the program.