Halibut impasse sets upcoming season's quota at 2017 level

Published on
January 30, 2018

Canada and the United States, the two largest fisheries for Pacific halibut, and members of the six-person International Pacific Halibut Commission were unable to agree on quotas for 2018 season at a meeting on 26 January.

Last year’s season ended on 7 November and the commercial quota was 31.4 million pounds, which was up from just under 30 million pounds in 2016, although experts believe that numbers of young halibut are down. 

Both Canada and the United States believed that cuts to the quotas should be made, but they couldn’t come together about how drastic those cuts should be. As a result, the quota for the upcoming season will remain the same as last season’s, which was set by the IPHC. 

“The Canadians are not in agreement with the U.S. over their share of the responsibility. That is where the rub is,” Commissioner Bob Alverson, a Washington fishing-industry official, told the Seattle Times.

U.S. fishermen caught 24.8 million pounds of their quota, or 99 percent of the total allowed to them in 2017, while Canadian fishermen brought in 6.3 million pounds, or 97 percent of their quota, according to the IPHC.

In the United States, quotas are split by region, with Alaska being allotted the highest quota – over 20 million pounds. Washington, Oregon, and California have a combined 1.25 million pounds of quota. Recreational fishermen are also allotted a quota, and the overall catch of halibut on North America’s west coast in 2017 totaled 41.3 million pounds.

Both the United States and Canada indicated during the IPHC meetings that they would refrain from catching their total allotments for 2018. 

This year’s season was approved by the IPHC and will run from 24 March to 7 November. Over the past hundred years, catches have ranged from 34 million pounds to more than 100 million pounds of halibut. 

Reporting from Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

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