Halibut catches could drop
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
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 www.akgulfrelief.org
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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