Pacific Halibut Management and Research
The Pacific halibut stock is managed under the Pacific Halibut treaty between Canada and the United States. The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) is responsible for assessing the status of the stocks and setting harvest strategies and catch limits that provide for optimum yield. Within the United States, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) is responsible for allocating the halibut resource among users and user groups fishing off Alaska. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is responsible for developing, implementing, and enforcing regulations pertaining to management of halibut fisheries in U.S. waters. The State of Alaska participates in management through the ADF&G Commissioner’s seat on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. ADF&G licenses anglers and sport fishing businesses and guides, monitors and reports on sport and subsistence harvests, and assists federal agencies with preparation of regulatory analyses.
The Alaska commercial longline fishery has been managed under an Individual Fishery Quota (IFQ) system since 1995. The IPHC sets the seasons and catch limits annually, and the catch limit is apportioned among U.S. fishermen based on individual quota shares. The sport fishery in Alaska is generally managed under daily bag and possession limits. Sport charter fisheries may have more restrictive regulations, such as size limits, to keep harvest within allocations or guidelines set by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. A limited entry system was implemented for the charter boat fleet in 2011, and a catch sharing plan was recently developed to allocate halibut between the commercial and charter fisheries in Alaska.
Most research on halibut is conducted by, or in conjunction with, the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). The IPHC conducts annual longline surveys to monitor changes in abundance, as well as age, sex, and size structure of the population. The IPHC conducts research on movements, spawning, and various other aspects of halibut biology. Much of this information is incorporated into stock assessment models that are used to estimate abundance and evaluate alternate harvest strategies. These stock assessment methods and policies are periodically examined to ensure that they are as accurate as possible and provide for optimum yield. Research has also been conducted by numerous other individuals and agencies.
The IPHC and NMFS monitor commercial halibut harvests. The State of Alaska monitors recreational halibut harvests through mail surveys, logbooks for the charter recreational fishery, and on-site sampling for biological and fishery characteristics. The state also monitors subsistence harvests using a mail survey combined with personal contacts.