Pacific halibut fishery closes, commercial catches come up short

Lots of uncertainty about halibut catch numbers for 2023.

by | December 7, 2022

Kodiak is tops for landings; 2023 outlook? Who knows!

The Pacific halibut fishery closed Wednesday (Dec. 7) after nine months of fishing.

The overall halibut removals came up just 7% short of the 2022 catch limit of  42.4 million pounds. That includes takes by commercial, sport, subsistence users and as bycatch in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska waters.

Alaska’s commercial halibut fishery produced nearly 19.3 million pounds, 10% under the catch limit.

Kodiak bumped Homer from the top spot with halibut landings at nearly 2.8 million pounds compared to about 2.5 million pounds at Homer. In Southeast Alaska, most halibut crossed the docks at Sitka and Petersburg.

In all, 2,241 Alaska fishermen holding shares of the halibut resource participated in the 2022 fishery spanning from the Panhandle to the far reaches of the Bering Sea.

Prices for Pacific halibut usually dip a few months after the fishery opens in March. But that wasn’t the case this year. Dock prices stayed in the $6 to more than $7 per pound range all season, according to the weekly Fish Ticket by Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer.  

Looking ahead to next year, there’s lots of uncertainty.

Mixed messages came out of the recent meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Fishery (IPHC). Data based on extensive summer surveys showed that the numbers of halibut (NPUE) were down 8% coastwide, the weight for legal size fish over 32 inches (WPUE) was down 18% and the weight for all halibut was down 11%.

However, IPHC scientists explained that improvements in their stock assessment policy, and specifically to their estimates of natural mortality, have led to calculations of higher yields at the same fishing intensity rates.

That could mean better news in terms of cuts to next year’s catches but it’s anyone’s guess.

The numbers will be revealed at the IPHC annual meeting set for January 23-27 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.


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