Supply issues challenge halibut buyers
By Joanne Friedrick, SeaFood Business contributing editor
25 June, 2012
Size matters. And when it comes to halibut, which are smaller for their age than they were 20 years ago, it is impacting the exploitable stocks and putting the market into a downturn.
Halibut is unique in that it can adapt to its surroundings to survive as a large species or as a small one, says Peggy Parker, executive director of the Halibut Association of North America based in Bellingham, Wash. “It has the highest elasticity of any species on earth,” she notes.
Scientists are currently studying why halibut were larger than average for many years prior to the 1970s, but are no longer growing to the same sizes at a mature age.
“There are a lot of individuals in the ocean,” says Parker, “but they aren’t large enough to meet the 32-inch limit.”
Because the total biomass is good, she says, it may be necessary to explore some options, such as lowering the size limit to increase the take. “But we need to know what is causing (the size change) first,” she adds.
This year’s total catch limit for Alaska and British Columbia is 33.5 million pounds, down from 41 million pounds in 2011. The season began on March 17, says Parker, and through April 15 there were 2.551 million pounds caught in Alaska and almost 600,000 pounds in British Columbia, accounting for about 9 percent of the total catch limit.
In addition to the size-change issue, Parker says Pacific halibut has to compete for food with the Arrowtooth flounder, which has exploded in volume. Ecosystem management is important, says Parker, and means managing other species, such as the flounder, so both it and the halibut can survive.
Click here to read the feature in its entirety from the June issue of SeaFood Business >
25 June, 2012