SEAGO executive director Forrest Braden spent this week in Victoria, BC at the International Halibut Commission (IPHC) annual meeting working with commissioners, managers, and stakeholders to protect Southeast guided halibut regulations from further encroachment. Despite SEAGO’s best efforts to preserve a 40″ lower size limit without additional restrictions, guided anglers in 2C will face Monday closures for halibut beginning July 24th and extending through the end of the calendar year. The U40O80 (40″ and under, or 80″ and over) size limit stays in place and retention of GAF halibut on Mondays remains legal.

IPHC Commissioners from both the U.S. and Canada agreed to a 10.3% reduction in coastwide harvest for both countries. Despite concerns from the majority of IPHC commissioners over declining stocks, unguided anglers throughout Alaska were left untouched and can continue to keep two halibut a day of any size. Residents with rural status such as in Sitka can keep up to 20 halibut per day if they obtain a SHARC card.

That guided halibut businesses won’t be able to offer charter halibut on 7 or 8 Mondays of their typical season is a bitter pill, but SEAGO’s executive director Forrest Braden believes it could have been worse. “We made the case all week that the IPHC’s own data showed we could fish at the same levels as last year and not jeopardize the stock. We made a strong argument that a 10% cut for 2C would trigger even more challenging regulations including a three-fish annual limit and Monday closures for the entire season”.

Richard Yamada, a SEAGO board member and one of the three U.S. Commissioners on the IPHC, shared the same view. He consistently spoke to a lack of evidence that reductions in the ranges discussed would have major impacts on natural stock fluctuations. But he also recognized the benefits of showing solidarity with fellow U.S. commissioners in an attempt to check Canadian ambitions for inflated percentages of the resource. The Commissioners ultimately opted to minimize reductions to 2C citing socioeconomics and only a 1% drop in the area’s 2022 population survey, a low number compared to much larger drops in other IPHC statistical areas.

Area 3A rolled over regulations from 2022 with a closure of 7 additional Tuesdays.

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