The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) conducted the 93rd Session of its Interim Meeting at the Grand Hyatt Seattle in Seattle, Washington on 28 and 29 November 2017. The IM093 report, documents, presentations and webcast recordings are posted on the Commission’s website at http://iphc.int/meetings-and-events/interim-meeting.html.
Fishery-Independent Setline Survey
This was the fourth year of the IPHC’s six-year fishery-independent setline survey (FISS) expansion program, with 108 additional stations fished in IPHC Regulatory Area 2A and 113 in 4B during the 2017 setline survey, with almost 1500 stations coastwide. For 2018, the IPHC plans to undertake expansions into Regulatory Areas 2B and 2C, adding approximately 158 new stations to the standard setline survey grid.
The space-time modeling approach introduced in 2016 was used for the analysis of IPHC setline survey data. This modeling approach is a clear improvement over the previous empirical method as it makes greater use of the information within the data, and better accounts for uncertainty in the estimation.
The 2017 Stock Assessment
This year’s stock assessment is based on an ensemble of four models used since 2014. Recruitment cohorts from 2006 through 2013 are estimated to be smaller than those from 1999-2005, indicating a high probability of decline in both the stock and fishery yield as recent recruitments become increasingly important to the age range over which much of the harvest and spawning takes place.
A summary of the preliminary 2017 stock assessment results is presented in paper IPHC-2017-IM093-08 on the IPHC website at http://iphc.int/meetings-and-events/interim-meeting/im093-documents.html, and will be updated for the 94th Annual Meeting.
Draft Harvest Decision Table for 2018
The IPHC Secretariat’s provisional harvest advice is prepared in the form of a decision table for the Commission’s consideration as it sets the annual catch limits. This provisional harvest decision table (Table 1, next page) presents estimates of risk over a range of potential harvest options for 2018 (the columns) as measured by different stock and fishery metrics (the rows), and will be updated and presented again at the Annual Meeting (AM094) in January 2018.
The orientation of this table has changed from previous analyses in order to make the comparison of additional metrics easier and to increase consistency with the results produced from the IPHC Management Strategy Evaluation.
Values in the table represent the probability, in “times out of 100,” of a particular risk. Total removals include all Pacific halibut mortality caused by humans, i.e., all removals except natural mortality. The center column (shown as wider than the others) represents the application of the current interim management procedure to the stock assessment results, corresponding to an average Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR) of F46. Alternative metrics of performance, as well as different increments of total removals, may be considered in the Commission’s decision-making process.
IPHC Regulatory Area 2A Commercial Fisheries
The total allowable incidental commercial catch of Pacific halibut allocated to the IPHC Regulatory Area 2A salmon troll fishery was 39,810 pounds (~18.06 metric tons, t). A total of 38,621 pounds (~17.52 t) were landed during the 2017 season.
The total allowable incidental commercial catch of Pacific halibut allocated to the limited entry, fixed-gear sablefish fishery, which operates in IPHC Regulatory Area 2A north of Point Chehalis, Washington, was 70,000 pounds (~31.75 t). A total of 35,866 pounds (~16.27 t) were landed during the 2017 season.
The total allowable directed commercial catch of Pacific halibut allocated to the non-treaty fishery, which operates in IPHC Regulatory Area 2A south of Point Chehalis, Washington, was 225,591 pounds (102.33 t). A total of 230,000 pounds (~104.33t) were landed during the 2017 season, over three 10-hour openings.
The total allowable commercial catch of Pacific halibut allocated to the treaty fisheries in IPHC Regulatory Area 2C was 435,900 pounds (~197.72 t). A total of 432,482 pounds (~196.17 t) were landed during the 2016 season.
The following has closed for the Pacific halibut sport fishery in Oregon, U.S.A.:
Closed: Oregon Central Coast Sub-area summer all-depth Pacific halibut sport fishery - The preliminary catch estimate for the central Oregon all-depth summer Pacific halibut sport fishery openings through 17 September 2017 is 63,547 pounds, leaving an estimated 2,734 pounds in the harvest allocation. This amount is insufficient for further openings in this sub-area and as a result this area is now closed for the remainder of 2017. The remaining pounds will be transferred to the Oregon Central Coast subarea nearshore fishery allocation to maintain opportunity in that area.
Quota Share Commercial Fisheries Update
The 2017 quota share Pacific halibut fisheries opened on 11 March 2017. It is estimated that the following commercial landings, in pounds and numbers, were taken in the Alaskan IFQ and CDQ fisheries through 17 September 2017 and in the British Columbian IVQ fishery through 14 September 2017.
The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) is seeking commercial longline and research vessels to conduct a Pacific halibut discard mortality study in the latter part of October to early November 2017. The study will require fishing conventional fixed gear in an area southeast of Chignik, AK, bounded between the following points (56°05’N, 158°10’W), (56°05’N, 157°25’W), (55°26’N, 156°23’W), (54°55’N, 157°15’W), (54°55’N, 158°10’W), and (55°40’N, 158°50’W). Three sets of 8 skates (1,800’ feet long (300 fathoms) with 100 hooks (#3 (16/0 Mustad)) at 18’ intervals) will be fished per day. A secondary roller will need to be in place in board the rail to enable release of fish into an area where they can be assessed, tagged, and released. Release methods (careful shake, hook straightening, gangion cutting, and hook stripper) will be randomly assigned by skate throughout each set. Two trips of six days will be conducted following an initial two days of test fishing to finalize the experimental protocols. The vessel must be capable of taking three (3) IPHC field biologists for data and sample collections. IPHC will bear bait and ice costs; fuel costs will be borne by the vessel. Some Pacific halibut will be retained and sold by IPHC, and limited retention of Pacific cod and rockfish bycatch may be allowed.
Closed: California’s Pacific halibut sport fishery - The preliminary catch estimate for California’s Pacific halibut sport fishery through 3 September 2017 is 31,422 pounds, leaving an estimated 3,158 pounds to be harvested. As a result, the California Pacific halibut sport fishery will close at the end of the day (23:59 PDT) Sunday, 10 September 2017. This fishery will then be closed for the remainder of 2017.