Homer Alaska - Seawatch

Story last updated at 5:25 PM on Wednesday, January 25, 2012

International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting gets under way in Anchorage

IPHC Update No. 1

By Cristy Fry

The International Pacific Halibut Commission began its annual meeting in Anchorage today with a summary of the 2011 fishery, an explanation of how the staff comes up with catch limit recommendations, a look at the issues that would arise if the minimum size limit for the commercial fishery were reduced, and a detailed presentation on the "retrospective bias," or the underestimating of total annual halibut removals, that has caused so much trouble for the biomass projections and anxiety about the potential that the commission may decide on even deeper quota cuts than the staff is recommending.

As halibut have gotten smaller, the idea of lowering the 32-inch minimum size limit has been bandied about in the industry in an effort to increase the exploitable biomass. Commission staff member Juan Valero explained that while the number of halibut as well as the total biomass is increasing, the amount available for commercial harvest, and therefor the quota, has been going down.

Valero said that while reducing or eliminating the MSL would put more pounds into the exploitable biomass in the short run, it would reduce the number of spawning females by increasing the catch of immature females.

Dr. Stephen Hare gave the presentation similar to that given at the interim meeting in December on retrospective bias, which essentially laid out how persistent underestimation of the removals since at least 2004 has led to a quota recommendation for 2012 that could be nearly 40 percent above the level of sustainability. However, there is too much uncertainty about why the data is so far off target to ask the commission to recommend lowering the quota by such a drastic amount.

The meeting is very well attended with a considerable Canadian contingent.

Portions of the meeting can be listened to online while in progress. For a full agenda and information that is being presented at the meeting, visit the IPHC website at http://www.iphc.int/home.html.

Check this site Wednesday afternoon for another update.