First glimpse of potential catches for 2023 at upcoming IPHC meeting this month
Kodiak has toppled Homer as the nation’s top fishing port for halibut landings for 2022.
Homer traditionally boasts that title, but deliveries there through November 9 totaled 2,353,962 pounds compared to 2,513,215 at Kodiak.
The difference is just about 160,000 pounds, but it’s unlikely to be made up by the time the fishery closes on December 7.
Prices for Pacific halibut have been in the $6 to more than $7 per pound range since they fishery opened on March 6, according to the weekly Fish Ticket by Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer.
Halibut fishermen will get a first glimpse at potential catches for 2023 at the upcoming interim meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) set for November 30 – December 1. The meeting will be held virtually and is open to the public.
The halibut stock has been on an upward direction for the past few years and indications from surveys point to another boost for 2023.
For 2022, the IPHC set total coastwide halibut removals at 41.22 million pounds, a 5.7% increase from the previous year. That includes takes by commercial, sport, and subsistence users in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska.
For commercial halibut harvesters, the total catch limit for 2022 was just over 28 million pounds, an increase of more than 9%.
Alaska always gets the lion’s share of the commercial halibut catch which this year was set at nearly 20.3 million pounds. As of this week, 83% of the total was taken leaving just over 3.5 million pounds in the water.
The latest IPHC report shows that for recreational fisheries, total coastwide removals for 2022 were nearly 6.6 million pounds.
The coastwide subsistence estimate for 2022 was just under one million pounds.
Halibut catches by ‘non-directed’ fisheries, meaning caught and discarded as bycatch, totaled 8% of total removals for 2022, equaling nearly 3.3 million pounds.
In Alaska, trawl fisheries are responsible for most of the non-directed commercial discards with hook and line fisheries a distant second. Halibut discards are the highest by trawlers targeting flatfish in the Bering Sea, the IPHC report said.
Conversely, in Canada, halibut discards in trawl fisheries are capped at just under one million pounds.
Estimates of halibut bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska are “challenging” because observer coverage is so low, the IPHC said, adding that data from state-managed fisheries “is unavailable.”
Final catch limits for 2023 will be set at the IPHC annual in-person meeting set for January 23-27 in Victoria, British Columbia.
The Pacific halibut fishery opens in early March.