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Halibut catches could drop in 2006
By Laine Welch


December 12, 2005

Halibut catches could drop by about five percent next year if fishery managers follow the recommendations of their scientific advisors. Staff for the International Pacific Halibut Commission, which sets halibut harvest levels for fisheries in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Oregon and Alaska, is recommending a 2006 coast wide catch of 69.86 million pounds, down from 73.82 million pounds this year. For Alaska, which always claims the lion's share of the halibut haul, that would mean a statewide drop of about 1.7 million pounds - from 56.97 million pounds in 2005 to 55.26 million pounds next year. IPHC staff said the lower numbers reflect population declines and lack of recruitment in some areas of Alaska. Following are the recommendations for Alaska:


The final harvest determinations will be made at the Commission's annual meeting set for January 17-20 in Bellevue, WA.
 PAY UP TIME - Bills are in the mail to 2,400 Alaska longliners lucky enough to hold quota shares of halibut and black cod (sablefish). Those fishermen pay a fee each year to cover the costs of managing and enforcing the fisheries. The fee is based on the dockside value of the catch and cannot exceed three percent of the total value of each fishery.     "One thing new this year is the fee billings went out as certified mail," said Tracy Buck, Permit Operations Manager for the Restricted Access Management division of NOAA Fisheries in Juneau.  Buck said the 2005 halibut and black cod fisheries yielded $3.7 million for coverage costs. "For halibut, the overall value is $168 million and about $70 million for sablefish," Buck said. That's just slightly higher than the 2004 value for halibut, and a boost of $3 million for black cod. "Also balancing things out is this year's slightly higher coverage fee of 1.6 percent, compared to 1.4 percent last year," Buck said.

This year's average price for halibut was $3.05/lb and $2.10/lb for black cod. That compares to averages of $2.93/lb and $2.00/lb, respectively. Those prices might seem somewhat low considering the sky high prices that approached $4.00/lb in some ports during the last six weeks of the fishery. However, Buck said the prices are based on buyers' reports only through the end of September and don't reflect the most recent prices.

Tracy Buck said that halibut and black cod  fishermen continue to have an excellent track record of paying their bills on time.  "We are continually impressed that it is less than one percent who don't pay," she said. Deadline to pay the coverage fees is January 31, 2006.   
 SUSTAINABILITY NO PASSING FAD - The trend towards harnessing consumers' seafood purchasing power in support of well managed, earth friendly fisheries continues to gain lots of momentum. A major report by major seafood buyers for top U.S. restaurants and supermarkets predicts that sustainable fisheries will play an increasing role in buying decisions. Notably, in an attempt to "aggressively transform the global seafood business",  Intrafish reported that last week Disney Corporation hosted heavy hitters like Wal-Mart, Red Lobster, World Wildlife Fund and others to "underscore the interest and investments all are making in the sustainable seafood concept."

TRAVELIFT - The city of Valdez and the newly formed Alaska Fishing Industry Relief Mission (AFIRM) have teamed up to give the Gulf of Mexico's fishing and seafood industry what it needs most - a 60-ton marine travel lift that is capable of moving the still stranded boats to the oyster beds, shrimping grounds and fishing hot spots of the region. AFIRM credits Valdez Port Director Alan Sorum and  Rusty  Gaude of Louisiana Sea Grant with the  idea of the unique donation. To learn more or to make a donation see or contact AFIRM's Mark Vinsel at (907) 586-2820.


Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. Her Fish Factor column appears weekly in over a dozen papers and websites. Her Fish Radio programs air on 27 stations across Alaska.

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