Council Adopts Halibut Limit Look Up Table; Final Limits in January

You want to know what the halibut limits will be for your guests in 2023. We all do. Unfortunately, a firm answer is still a little over a month away when the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC)  sets the halibut catch limits at their annual meeting. Then a final catch limit number will be plugged into a range of management measures recently adopted by the North Pacific Management Council. Here are the possibilities:

For Area 2C:

Regardless of the catch limit from the IPHC, we will have a one halibut daily bag limit and a reverse slot limit with the upper size set at 80 inches.

The lower size limit of the slot will be adjusted depending on the catch limit but not go lower than 40”. If allocation isn’t adequate for maintaining a 40” lower limit, the next measure is closing Mondays to guided angler halibut retention beginning on September 18 and working backwards. Monday closures working backward will continue in order to keep a 40” lower limit. If closing all the Mondays in the season proves insufficient to support the 40” lower slot, a three-fish annual limit will be implemented. If these measures are calculated to over correct, a 41” or 42” lower limit be implemented with any remaining allocation.

Dropping the lower size limit below 40″ would only be implemented if all the above measures are insufficient to hold the guided anglers to their catch limit. The final measure, should all the others fail to hold non-guided anglers to allocation –  drop the lower size limit.

For Area 3A:

Regardless of the catch limit from the IPHC, guided anglers will have a daily bag limit of 2 halibut with; one fish of any size and one fish with a maximum size limit that will be set when the catch limits are determined. Additionally, 1 trip per charter vessel per day with retention of halibut; and, 1 trip per charter halibut permit per day.

Further measures to stay within allocation for 3A employ a progression of Tuesday and Wednesday closures and adjust the size limit of the second fish..

An official description of adopted harvest measures for both areas are here.

So, what’s likely? That’s very tough to say right now due to several moving targets. The four-year agreement between Canada and the U.S. which subsidized Canada and the U.S. west coast (CA, OR, WA) removals by restricting removals from other U.S. areas is up for renegotiation with changes likely. The 2022 stock survey trended down almost coastwide with the strongest decline in area 3A, but new IPHC modeling of natural mortality (i.e., death from predation or food competition) in the halibut stock suggests we can fish harder than we have historically with the same effect. This could stabilize or possibly bump up allocations.

A realistic hope for both areas is to hold on to last year’s limits while considering anything above that a bonus.

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