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Alaska’s halibut management faces scrutiny at IPHC

English: Plot of Weight vs. Length for Pacific...
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Feb 3, 2012 - 07:43 PM AKST


In many cases rightly so, Alaska is not bashful about touting itself as a model for sustainable fisheries management.

When it comes to halibut, however, the glaring deficiencies in Alaskan management compared to British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest were under scrutiny at the International Pacific Halibut Commission annual meeting in Anchorage Jan. 24 to Jan. 27.

The commercial quotas for 2012 were cut by another 18 percent compared to last year. As the quotas decline, fishermen fear for their future and biologists are engaged in a high-stakes struggle to find the reasons behind persistent errors in the estimates of the size of the halibut stock going back to 2004.

If problems in the scientific model that have resulted in too many halibut being harvested cannot be resolved over the next year, an alternative strategy could be in play. The alternative strategy would have resulted in just 15.3 million pounds of commercial quota in 2012 compared to the 33.5 million pounds approved Jan. 27.

Meanwhile, Alaska still has no comprehensive plan to manage commercial and recreational halibut sectors and an observer program subject to manipulation by fishermen that results in...