US: Halibut Commission recommends lowering catches in Pacific – Fishupdate.com

US: Halibut Commission recommends lowering catches in Pacific Published:  20 February, 2006

THE International Pacific Halibut Commission completed its Annual Meeting recently and the Commission is to recommend to the Governments of Canada and the United States, catch limits for 2006 totalling 69,860,000 pounds, a 5.37% decrease from the 2005 catch limit of 73,819,000 pounds.

The Commission staff reported on the 2005 assessment of the Pacific halibut stock which implemented only minor technical changes from the previous year. The halibut stock is healthy in the central and southern portions of the range (Areas 3A through 2A), but is believed to have declined in Areas 3B through Area 4, and lower catch limits are required in those areas. The recruitment of the 1994 and 1995 year classes appears to be relatively strong in most areas, although Area 4B is showing a notably lower level of recruitment of these same year classes compared with other regulatory areas. Recoveries of PIT-tagged halibut from the Bering Sea and western Gulf of Alaska have been very low and do not provide information sufficient to estimate exploitable biomass reliably in these areas. Such low recovery rates suggest very high biomass levels in the Bering Sea but steadily declining commercial and survey catch rates in most areas suggest that fishing mortality rates of halibut are similar to those in the central and eastern Gulf of Alaska. The Commission does not yet know why the recaptures of tagged halibut from these areas are low and is continuing to examine the problem. However, the Commission’s analytic assessment and survey data for these areas continue to indicate stock declines and the requirement for reductions in harvest.

This is the second year in a row that harvest rates for these areas have been lowered as a precautionary measure, and while additional research projects are conducted in 2006.

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