Halibut Fisherman Calls on Council to Act because "Our Pacific Halibut are in Trouble" (Opinion)
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Opinion] by David Kubiak Our Pacific Halibut Are In Trouble
Consistent with our policy, both Peggy and I made comments on this op-ed.
John Sackton: This editorial, like much of the comments on this issue, is only presenting a partial picture. I have the following issues. First, use of halibut by other fisheries as bycatch is not 'wastage'. The proper role of any fishery management authority is to allocate fish among users, and both national policy and long standing precedent at the North Pacific Management Council has recognized the rights of other fisheries to catch limited amounts of halibut as bycatch. There is a legitimate issue as to what this amount should be, but whatever amount is allocated is not wastage, but a legitimate use of fish.
Secondly, although the number of 1,052,000 halibut "killed and wasted as bycatch" in the Bering Sea in 2014 sounds large, NMFS trawl surveys, that measure the population of halibut in the Bering Sea by length at age, puts this number in perspective. In the 2014 trawl survey, there were 41 million halibut in the size range of 40 to 79 centimeters, and another 19 million halibut under 40 centimeters. This means the total population of under 32 inch fish in the Bering sea is about 60 million halibut. Taking 1 million of these fish as bycatch has a minimal effect on other Alaskan populations. It corresponds to 1.6% of the total Bering Sea population. Furthermore if you look at the NMFS trawl survey data you can see that although stocks have declined since 2006, the current population level is larger than during the entire period from 1990 to 2005, when both bycatch rates and halibut harvests were larger than today. That is why it is important to look at this issue in a big picture context, rather than selectively using data to argue a point. Another good resource for understanding this is the following table showing halibut weight and length at age, from the IPHC.
Peggy Parker: The NMFS trawl survey is a component of abundance in the Bering Sea, but it is important to remember the role the Bering Sea plays in the halibut stocks throughout their north Pacific range. It is the major nursery area for halibut that later migrate to fisheries off the coast of other parts of Alaska, Canada, Washington, and Oregon. The abundance levels in the Bering Sea are not showing up "downstream" in the volumes they did just 25 years ago. So the fact that abundance looks good in the Bering Sea needs to be compared to overall abundance; that's where the concerns lie.
It's also important to note that the action before the Council is not a shifting of resource from one user group to another. There are many moving parts between reducing bycatch caps and setting higher catch limits in 2016. More precise research is needed on the juvenile stocks of halibut in the Bering Sea and their role across halibut's entire habitat. For juvenile halibut, what happens in the Bering Sea doesn't stay in the Bering Sea.
David Kubiak is a salmon and halibut fisherman from Kodiak, AK.
In the last ten years, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands trawl fisheries have killed and discarded 63 million pounds of halibut as bycatch...Full Story »