Alaska commercial halibut quota goes up for first time in 15 years

ADN- Alaska halibut stocks are showing signs of an uptick, and for the first time in 15 years, commercial fishermen’s catches will not be slashed this year.

Fishery managers on Friday set the coastwide Pacific halibut harvest at 29.89 million pounds, a 2.3 percent increase from 2015.

“This was probably the most positive, upbeat meeting in the past decade,” said Doug Bowen of Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer. “The feeling is the stocks are up and the resource is stabilizing and recovering, and it’s the first meeting in a long time that there weren’t any areas that are looking at double-digit (percentage) cuts.”

Because halibut paid more than $6 a pound at the docks last year, even a small increase can be lucrative. Bowen said it could push the price for halibut quota share to $60 a pound in major fishing region. That equates to $90,000 for a small lot of 1,500 pounds.

A scientist working for the International Pacific Halibut Commission, which met last week in Juneau, agrees with Bowen.

“The bottom line for this year is that we can see some positive trends both in the data and in the stock assessment models,” said Ian Stewart, whose agency manages the catches and fishery research for West Coast states including Alaska and British Columbia.  “The stock appears to be stabilizing … and the more years that we’ve seen this play out, the more certain we become of that.”