Prepare now for drastic climate change, UBC study warns First Nations’ fishery, other stakeholders

Fewer salmon; many more sardines.

That’s one of the predictions from a new study from the University of British Columbia, looking at the future of the fishery on the coast.

The study concentrates on the First Nations fishery and warns that aboriginal people could face a catastrophic decline in the harvest of traditional species, especially salmon and herring roe on kelp over the next thirty years, a decline that will also have an equally devastating effect on commercial and recreational fishing.

The main cause of the decline is climate change and the warming of the coastal waters. The study projected “modest to severe declines in catch potential” for all current commercial fisheries along the coast.

The study says that for the First Nations the between $28 million to $36 million in revenue they got from fishing between 2001 and 2010 could fall by up to 90 per cent depending on how the climate changes.

A chart from the UBC study shows possible decline in fish species under different climate scenarios. (PLOS1)
A chart from the UBC study shows possible decline in fish species under different climate scenarios. (PLOS1)

One scenario calls for a decline of up to 40 per cent in chinook and pink salmon.

If there is any good news, if you can call it that, the decline will be not as bad in northern coastal waters as it will be the warmer waters near the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island. The range of some species, including salmon, herring, halibut and possibly oolichan will move to farther north along the BC Coast and into Alaskan waters.

That means in time the warming waters will also encourage an increase in other species, including sardines and some clams.

The changing oceans mean that “an increase in the relative abundance of warmer-water species was projected to lead to new or increased opportunities for commercial harvests by 2050.”

The study is urging the First Nations and other stakeholders in the British Columbia fishery to start long term planning immediately to  anticipate changes in the coming decades.

The team of scientists led by Lauren Weatherdon, a graduate student at UBC, noted that while previous studies have looked at the impact of climate change on large-scale commercial fisheries, “few efforts have been made to quantitatively project impacts on small-scale subsistence and commercial fisheries that are economically, socially and culturally important to many coastal communities.”

The study Projected Scenarios for Coastal First Nations’ Fisheries Catch Potential under Climate Change: Management Challenges and Opportunities is published in the online journal PLOS One

The study was conducted in cooperation with the BC First Nations Fisheries Council and looked its seven coastal administrative regions “forming a sample of groups with diverse marine resources, geographical locations, territorial sizes, and treaty statuses.”

Within those regions 16 First Nations participated in the study, some under their treaty councils, including the Council of the Haida Nation, the Tsimshian Nations Treaty Society (including the Gitga’at at Hartley Bay and the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum near Terrace) and the Maa-nulth First Nations. The Heiltsuk First Nation at Bella Bella participated as an independent group.


The FNFC’s administrative regions intersect with five distinct ecological regions: the North Coast, comprising the Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance; Haida Gwaii, which includes the waters surrounding the islands; the Central Coast, including Queen Charlotte Sound, Queen Charlotte Strait, and the southern tip of Hecate Strait; the Strait of Georgia; and the west coast of Vancouver Island (WCVI) .

The study says First Nations are likely to be exposed to different climate-related impacts on fisheries due to the differing ecological and biogeographical characteristics of these regions and to differing traditional and commercial harvests.

The study used a “dynamic bioclimate envelope” computer model to look at the changes to the distribution and relative abundances of the BC coastal species under two climate change scenarios, a high greenhouse gas model where society can’t curb emissions and a low greenhouse gas emission scenarios, depending on how society is able to curb the increase.

The study looked at ocean properties—including sea surface temperature, sea bottom temperature, salinity, oxygen concentration, surface action, and net primary production—using data from the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administrations’  climate-related earth system model.

Climate change will mean that current species on the BC coast will “shift polewards.”

The study showed that by 2050, there could be declines in 87 of the 98 species in the study.

Greater losses in  what the study calls “species richness” is likely to occur towards the southern coast of British Columbia, falling primarily between 48°N and 51°N. But, overall,  species richness along coastal BC will continue—only with different species.

Most significantly the study projects a decline in the overall salmon catch from 17.1 per cent to 29.2 per cent, depending on the region and climate.

All aspects of the herring fishery, including roe herring, spawn-on-kelp, and the food and bait fishery could decline between 28.1 per cent and 49.2 per cent depending on the region.

The future of the oolichan is the most uncertain. One of the models studied projected a further 37.1 per cent decline in the oolichan, while other models called for for a decline between 5 per cent and 6.8 per cent. That will depend on how well, the oolichan already threatened in most regions of British Columbia are able to adapt to warmer waters or find a way to move their range northward.

The study says white sturgeon and Pacific sardines were projected to increase in abundance under both climate change scenarios, while manila clams were projected to increase in abundance by 14.5 per cent in one of the models. The eight remaining species showed little change.

The study suggests that the southern territories (Tsawwassen, Tla’amin, and Maa-nulth First Nations) will likely see a reduction in catch potential between -15.2 per cent and -27.8 per cent depending on how the climate changes.

On the north coast. The Haida and Tsimshian First Nations and those situated along the central or north-eastern coasts of Vancouver Island (Heiltsuk and ‘Namgis First Nations)  would likely see smaller reductions in relative catch for each territory, with estimates falling between -3.2 per cent and -8.2 per cent.

The study shows that for the First Nations along the North and Central Coasts of British Columbia (Gitga’at and Haida, and Heiltsuk and ‘Namgis) there will be neutral or positive shifts in catch potential for white sturgeon, kelp greenling, and two species of perch under both scenarios.

While varying regionally, both scenarios also suggested either a slight cumulative decline or negligible change in catch potential for clams, rockfish, lingcod, and sculpins across the North and Central Coast.

One potential problem the study suggests is that fishers in southern British Columbia may, in the future, try to move north to follow the harvest, leading to potential conflicts.  The cost of travel, may, however, discourage that.

One of the recommendations from the study is that First Nations revive the traditional clam gardens.

Traditional clam beds serve as an ideal example of a method that could be applied to offset climatic impacts through internalized mechanisms, using local cultivation to generate increased productivity by enhancing native habitat rather than redirecting extraction efforts towards other regions or species. Clam gardens constructed in a manner akin to those situated near ancient settlements of the Northern Coast Salish and Laich-kwil-tach First Nations have been found to generate higher clam densities, biomass, and growth rates than non-walled beaches . These benefits were observed for Pacific littleneck clams and butter clams , two clams that are of cultural, economic, and ecological importance to the region Reinstating clam beds in First Nations’ territorial lands has been suggested as a means of simultaneously achieving local conservation and cultural objectives and may thereby provide a politically and ecologically viable option for mitigating climate-related impacts.

The most important recommendation is that the First Nations and other stakeholders start cooperating immediately to offset how the changing climate with affect the fishery:

Management of salmon and herring stocks has been highly contentious due to the myriad of stakeholders who depend upon them, which include First Nations, recreational fisheries, and commercial fisheries….

Aside from fulfilling societal needs, salmon serve as key ecological components of the Pacific Northwest Coast, functioning as the mechanisms by which nutrients are transferred from the ocean to freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems

It says the projections show that a “redistribution of fishing effort” will not “fully offset declines in salmon and herring”

attaining a state of collaboration between First Nations, DFO, and other sectors has the potential to yield beneficial ecological and political results, if implemented correctly. Parallels exist between First Nations’ traditional fisheries management approaches and “modern” approaches (e.g., spatial management, mariculture, selective fishing, fishing closures), with differences arising primarily due to diverging worldviews.

It recommends local application of First Nations’ traditional management strategies to “provide opportunities to collaboratively engage in adaptive ecosystem-based management and to coordinate efforts to attain conservation objectives.”

They give an example of how the Nisga’a Nation have ensured their equal partnership in management by employing traditional fish wheel technology to monitor and assess stocks and by leveraging traditional ecosystem-based management practices that could be applied to plan long-term objectives and management approaches.

It concludes by saying that joint-management will not only work to reduce the impact of climate change but also head off potential conflict.

Through such joint-management regimes, traditional fisheries management strategies could be applied to advance localized research directives and to reduce impacts on stocks under unprecedented environmental change. Moreover, the risk of conflict over declining resources underlines the need to establish common and equitable ground to ensure successful joint management of fisheries, and to leverage collective expertise.

Chart from the study showing which fish species will move north up the coast as the climate changes. (PLOS1)
Chart from the study showing which fish species will move north up the coast as the climate changes. (PLOS1)

BC calls for input on conservation plan for Ashdown Island, one of the “disappeared” on Douglas Channel

Ashdown Island
Sea lions basking on Ashdown Island (BC Parks)

BC Parks and the Gitga’at First Nation are calling for public input as they development a management plan for the K’nabiyaaxl/Ashdown Island Conservancy at the mouth of Douglas Channel.

BC Parks describes the area as:

K’nabiyaaxl/Ashdown Conservancy covers 727 hectares of marine and uplands ecosystem on the northwest coast of British Columbia, south of Gil Island. The conservancy is 40 kilometres south of Hartley Bay and 120 kilometres southwest of Kitimat. The conservancy is in the traditional territory of the Gitga’at First Nation.

The public has until December 9 to read the management plan and file comments with BC Parks and the Gitga’at Nation.

Although not well known outside the Kitimat region, Ashdown Island did receive some measure of fame because it was one of the islands that disappeared from Enbridge’s promotional animation of the tanker route for diluted bitumen from Kitimat to Asia if the controversial Northern Gateway project goes ahead. As well as a haven for wildlife, Ashdown is known as a prime halibut fishing area.

Ashdown Island
Ashdown Island study area (BC Parks)

Ashdown Island is on the proposed “Southern Approach” for Enbridge’s tanker traffic routes.

Tanker routes (Wikipedia from Living Oceans)
Tanker routes (Wikipedia from Living Oceans)


Recent studies by both Fisheries and Oceans and scientists have identified the area as “critical habitat” for the rebounding humpback whale population visiting the BC Coast. The Northern Gateway Joint Review panel recently refused to consider those studies because they were released after the deadline for filing evidence.

The BC management plan notes:

The area and nearby waters have been and continue to be intensively used by the Gitga’at people for cultural, social and economic purposes. In Tsimshian language (Sm’algyax), K’nabiyaaxl means “place where cliff” – which is located on the west side of Ashdown Island.

The conservancy encompasses all of Ashdown Island and the foreshore area
and land covered by water within 200 metres of the high tide line. It
has high intertidal values, especially for seaweed, and contains an important
Steller Sea Lion haulout. The waters around the island support important Gitga’at
community fisheries.


Although in Gitga’at traditional territory, the plan notes that the Haisla, the Kitasoo community of Klemtu; and Gitxaala community of Kitkatla on Dolphin Island should be consulted.

It goes on to say:

The conservancy protects an entire small island representative of the Hecate Lowlands Ecosection. The island’s foreshore marine environments include high value intertidal areas which provide high value habitat for important marine wildlife species and migratory birds. The conservancy also protects a haulout for Stellar Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus), a species of concern (provincially blue- listed3)…

Stellar Sea Lions use small islets off the south end of Ashdown Island as a winter
haulout, with up to 12 pups and 107 adults observed

The plans lists the Humpback Whale (Blue-listed, S1N); the. Killer Whale (Red- or Blue-listed, S2 or S3 depending on sub-species); and the Fin Whale; as Ashdown Island species at risk. (SARA species schedule procedure site)

As well:

The conservancy contains seven hectares of potential Marbled Murrelet habitat
which, although small, may provide important habitat when combined with core
Marbled Murrelet habitat in nearby areas.

K’nabiyaaxl’s remote location provides an excellent opportunity for maintaining
biological diversity and natural environment values. This habitat should not be
disturbed by conservancy use and development.

The island and the near shore are also part of the Gitga’at’s rich cultural heritage.

The conservancy is near the seasonal Gitga’at village camp of K’yel. The Gitga’at
travel in the spring from Hartley Bay to K’yel, which they use as a base for conducting intensive marine and intertidal harvesting and hunting activity.

Since time immemorial, the Gitga’at people have harvested fish and marine
mammal species in waters adjacent to K’nabiyaaxl. They also collect seaweed,
plants and berries from intertidal and upland areas on the island.

Archaeological sites are known to exist in the area. That the BC Archaeological
Branch does not have archaeological sites registered in the conservancy is not
indicative of the rich history of Gitga’at occupancy and use of K’nabiyaaxl.

Cut back on taking “forage fish” to save salmon and halibut, scientists recommend

A group of international scientists is recommending that fishing for what they call “forage fish,” including herring and anchovy, should be cut in half around the world to help save larger predator species like halibut and salmon.

Harvesting anchovy in Peru
Harvesting anchovy in Peru (Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force)

The expert group of marine scientists, called the Lenforest Forage Fish Task Force, say their worldwide analysis of the science and management of forage fish populations, “Little Fish, Big Impact: Managing a crucial link in ocean food webs,” concluded that in most ecosystems at least twice as many of these species should be left in the ocean as is done now.

The scientist say a thriving marine ecosystem relies on plenty of forage fish. These small schooling fish are a crucial link in ocean food webs because they eat plankton, tiny plants and animals and are then preyed upon by animals such as penguins, whales, seals, puffins, and dolphins.

The task force says “forage fish” are primary food sources for many commercially and recreationally valuable fish found including salmon, halibut, tuna, striped bass, and cod.
The task force says that if “forage fish” are consumed by other commercially important species they are worth $11.3 billion. But if the “forage fish” are caught themselves, they only generate $5.6 billion as “direct catch.”

Forage fish are used in fish meal and fish oil to feed farmed fish, pigs, and chickens that people consume on a regular basis. Fish oil is also used in nutritional supplements for humans.

“Traditionally we have been managing fisheries for forage species in a manner that cannot sustain the food webs, or some of the industries, they support,” says Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, who convened and led the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force.

“As three-fourths of marine ecosystems in our study have predators highly dependent on forage fish, it is economically and biologically imperative that we develop smarter management for these small but significant species.”

Small schooling fish are an important part of the ecosystem on both coasts of North America. Many marketable species on the Pacific coast feed on the forage fish, including as salmon, lingcod, Pacific hake, Pacific halibut, and spiny dogfish.

A large number of seabird species relies on them as well, and research shows that the breeding success of the federally endangered California least tern may depend on the availability of local anchovy populations. On the eastern seaboard, more menhaden are caught (by weight) than any other fish off the Atlantic coast. Taking out excessive amounts, however, means less food for tuna, bluefish, and striped bass ― as well as whales, dolphins, and seabirds – and affects fisheries and tourism industries from Maine to Florida.

“Around the globe, we’ve seen how removing too many forage fish can significantly affect predators and people who rely on that system’s resources for their livelihoods,” said Dr. Edward D. Houde, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science and task force member. “We need to be more precautionary in how we manage forage fish in ecosystems that we know very little about.”

Made up of 13 preeminent scientists with expertise in a wide range of disciplines, including UBC, the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force was established to generate specific and practical advice to support better management of forage fish around the world. This group of experts, with support from the Lenfest Ocean Program, synthesized scientific research and other information about these species and conducted original simulation modeling to reach their conclusions.

“The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force has provided guidance on how to prevent overfishing of these small prey species,” said Dr. P. Dee Boersma, professor and director of the Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels at the University of Washington and task force member. “Our hope is that fishery managers will put our recommendations into action to protect penguins, cod, whales, and a whole host of other creatures that need them to survive.”

Links Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force

Recreational halibut quota increased to 15 per cent but season may end in August


The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has increased the recreational halibut quota to 15 per cent.

A release issued this afternoon by Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield says, “the Minister has instructed the Department to make an immediate correction in the allocation formula for the Pacific halibut fishery. Under the new formula, 85 per cent of the resource will be allocated to the commercial sector and 15 per cent to the recreational sector.”

However, this may not be good news for the recreational halibut industry. A news release from the Sports Fishing of Institute British Columbia, issued late Friday, says that regulations not mentioned in Ashfields’s Friday afternoon news release from DFO, says the recreational season will end August 15. DFO officials were not available for confirmation late Friday.

So if there is a shorter season, the quota increase may not mean that much to the recreational sector.

 The DFO news release goes on to say:

The 2012 Pacific halibut recreational fishing season will open March 1st. Recreational anglers with a tidal water licence will be able to catch one halibut per day with two in possession. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to work with recreational community representatives to identify monitoring and management measures that will provide greatest flexibility and season length while staying within their allocation.

The release from Robert Alcock, of the Sports Fishing Institute says:

Today’s changes to the recreational halibut fishery, will ensure that in 2012, recreational anglers will experience the shortest halibut fishing season in memory, said Sport Fishing Institute of BC President Robert Alcock. “Minister Ashfield closed the recreational halibut fishing on September 5th last year and caused extensive economic damage to the sport fishing industry”, said Alcock. “Today he served notice that recreational halibut fishing will end in the first week of August, which will wreak havoc in the sport fishing industry and which will not conserve a single fish.”

Ashfield announced that he will not accept the unanimous recommendation of Canada’s 300,000 recreational anglers and create a “fixed number’ fishery that would allow recreational anglers to enjoy a predictable fishery during periods of low halibut abundance. Instead, Ashfield simply tinkered with the flawed allocation system established in 2003 which will ensure that Canada’s 436 commercial halibut quota holders can continue to harvest 85% of Canada’s sustainable Total Allowable Catch (TAC). The TAC is established annually by the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the amount of halibut that Canada and the US can harvest without endangering the long-term stability of halibut stocks.

Ashfield said in his news release that the decision will provide greater long-term certainty to the Pacific halibut fishery.

“Our government is making good on a commitment to provide greater long-term certainty in the Pacific halibut fishery for First Nations, commercial and recreational harvesters, and, most importantly encouraging jobs and economic growth in British Columbia.”

The release also says the controversial program where recreational fishers could buy additional quota from the commercial sector will continue, despite the fact a report from DFO to the International Pacific Halibut Commission indicated the program was a failure, with few people taking part.

While the recreational halibut fishery has lobbied for years to increase the quota from the old system of 12 per cent for the recreational sector and 88 per cent for the commercial sector, today’s decision comes after the IPHC lowered the overall quota for the Pacific Coast by 18 per cent. BC’s quota for 2012 is eight per cent lower, at 7.038 million pounds of halibut, a decrease  from the 2011 quota of 7.650 million pounds.

At the IPHC meetings in Anchorage, Alaska, last month, scientists expressed long term fears about the health of the halibut biomass, due to the large number of undersized females. At the same meeting scientists and fishers also said that the bycatch, especially from the pollock trawl fishery in the Gulf of Alaska was devastating the halibut “nursery.”

Before the news of the early closure of the season broke, Kitimat mayor Joanne Monaghan, recreating to the news of the quota increase said. “Hopefully some of the hard lobbying by the Kitimat group did paid off. I believe it did. Good going guys. Keep it up, still things to do.”

In the Institute’s news release Alcock went on to say:


During the 2011 election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Island residents that “Our government recognizes the importance of the halibut fishery in BC. The jobs and regional economic impact of the commercial, recreational and related tourism in BC are substantial. We remain committed to finding a solution to BC’s halibut allocation issue in advance of the 2012 season that strikes a fair balance between all sectors.”

“Recreational halibut fishers took the Prime Minister at his word,” said Alcock. “Sadly, today we have learned the hard way that the Prime Minister’s word is of little value, particularly to the hundreds of businesses, thousands of sport fishing industry employees and the hundred thousand Canadians who enjoy recreational halibut fishing.”

According to a recent study conducted for the BC Seafood Alliance (the commercial sector’s industry association), the recreational fishery in BC produces $642 million in annual sales, pays $150 million in wages and benefits, creates more than 7,800 jobs and 3,950 person-years of employment and contributes $240 million to the province’s Gross Domestic Product.


Editor’s Note:  Journalists are always wary of a government news release issued late on Friday afternoon. On the surface, the increase in the recreational quota was good news, something the guides and fishers had been fighting for years. Still, I was wondering why it came out on a Friday afternoon.  It took the Sports Fishing Institute of BC, who was able to find the regulations that they say indicate the season ends on August 15, that shows why the release came out  late on Friday.

BC 2012 halibut quota drops 8 per cent, as Canada protests devastation caused by pollock trawl in Gulf of Alaska “nursery”

The International Pacific Halibut Commission has recommended a Canadian harvest quota for the 2012 season of 7.038 million pounds of halibut, a decrease of eight per cent from the 2011 quota of 7.650 million pounds.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has yet to confirm the quota but it routinely follows the IPHC recommendation.

The reduction was not as bad as first feared. The commission staff were recommending a B.C coast quota of 6.633 million pounds, a decrease of 16 per cent.

The overall harvest quota decrease for the Pacific coast is 18.3 per cent, due to continuing concerns about the state of the halibut biomass.

The 2012 halibut season is much narrower, opening on March 17 and closing on November 7. The commission says the March 17 opening day was chosen because it is a Saturday and will help the marketing by both commercial and recreational fishers. The earlier November date will allow better assessment of the halibut stock after the 2012 season, according to an IPHC news release. (In Canada, DFO closed the recreational season much earlier than the date recommended by the IPHC, in September, while allowing the commercial harvest to continue.)

In the release following the annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, last week, the IPHC said

The Commission has expressed concern over continued declining catch rates in several areas and has taken aggressive action to reduce harvests. In addition, the staff has noted a continuing problem of reductions in previous estimates of biomass as additional data are obtained, which has the effect of increasing the realized historical harvest rates on the stock. Commission scientists will be conducting additional research on this matter in 2012….

The Commission faced very difficult decisions on the appropriate harvest from the stock and recognized the economic impact of the reduced catch limits recommended by its scientific staff. However, the Commission believes that conservation of the halibut resource is the most important management objective and will serve the best economic interests of the industry over the long term. Accordingly, catch limits adopted for 2012 were lower in all regions of the stock except Areas 2A (California, Oregon and Washington) and 2C (southeastern Alaska)

Pollock trawl bycatch crisis costs Canada $7 million a year

In the bureaucratic language of the IPHC, “The Commission expressed its continued concern about the yield and spawning biomass losses to the halibut stock from mortality of halibut in non-directed fisheries.”

The  IPHC says that British Columbia has made “significant progress” in reducing bycatch mortality and that quotas for vessels for other fish are being monitored, in California, Oregon and Washington have also had some success in reducing bycatch mortality.

It says that “Reductions have also occurred in Alaska, and new measures aimed at improving bycatch estimation, scheduled to begin in 2013, will help to refine these estimates.”

That phrase apparently masks a major problem of bycatch in the halibut nurseries off Alaska.

Craig Medred writing in the Alaska Dispatch in Should Alaska have protected halibut nursery waters noted that the Canadian delegation took a strong stand at the meetings:

Canada has protested that something needs to be done about the trawl industry [mostly for pollock] killing and dumping 10 million pounds of halibut off Alaska’s coast, but the International Pacific Halibut Commission proved powerless to do anything about it.
Meeting [last] week in Anchorage, the commission recognized the trawl catch as a potential problem, but then placed the burden of conservation squarely on the shoulders of commercial longliners along the Pacific Coast from Alaska south to California. The Commission again endorsed staff recommendations to shrink the catches of those fishermen in an effort to avoid an ever-shrinking population of adult halibut.

(This wasn’t reported in the Canadian media despite the importance of halibut both commercial and recreational to the economy of British Columbia. No Canadian media covered the IPHC conference in Alaska, despite the fact that halibut was a major issue in BC in the last federal election)

Medred’s report in the Alaska Dispatch goes on to say that the scientists say the Pacific Ocean is full of juvenile halibut, but that the juveniles seem to be disappearing before they reach spawning age (when the halibut reaches about the 32 inch catch minimum). “How much of this is due to immature fish being caught, killed and wasted by the billion-dollar pollock trawl fishery — which is in essence strip mining the Gulf of Alaska — is unknown.”

Medred says, “Scientists, commercial halibut fishermen and anglers all believe the catch is under-reported. Advisers to the commission — a U.S.-Canada treaty organization — indicated they are beyond frustrated with the bycatch issue.”

The official IPHC Bluebook report to the annual meeting said: “Not all fisheries are observed, therefore bycatch rates and discard mortality rates from similar fisheries are used to calculate bycatch mortality in unobserved fisheries.”

The official report to the IPHC gives one reason that the bycatch in Canadian waters is not as big a problem, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans ongoing monitoring of almost all commercial fisheries for bycatch.

But Canada is not satisfied with that and has submitted a formal proposal to the Commission to designate the Gulf of Alaska, “‘an area of special concern.” because the halibut that spawn in the Gulf of Alaska migrate to coastal British Columbia.

The Alaska Dispatch report says that the Canadian delegation told the IPHC: “Canada should not and must not be penalized for uncontrolled bycatch in other regulatory (areas), which IPHC staff have indicated could be costing (Canada) approximately 1 million pounds of lost yield in each year based on current, and what Canada believes may be questionable, estimates of bycatch.”

Medred says that one million pounds of halibut equals a loss of $7 million to Canadian fishermen alone.


IPHC news release, Jan. 31, 2012  (pdf)

International Pacific Halibut Commission confirms 18 per cent cut in overall quota for 2012

According to Alaska media reports, the International Pacific Halibut Commission, meeting in Anchorage, has confirmed an over all  cut in Pacific halibut harvest quota of 18 per cent, or 7.5 million pounds for 2012.

KMXT, an NPR station in Kodiak, Alaska reports 

 Area 3A, the Gulf of Alaska will experience a 17-percent reduction from last year. That results in a 11.9-million pound catch limit, down 2.4-million pounds.

Area 3B along the Alaska Peninsula southwest of Kodiak Island, the reduction is the same 2.4-million pounds, but the percentage reduction is 32 percent, down to just over 5-million pounds. In Area 4A, the eastern Aleutians, the cut is 35 percent.

The only areas that did not get reductions were off the Washington coast in Area 2A, which will get a 9-percent increase, and Area 2C in Southeast Alaska, which will get a 13 percent bump, up almost 300,000 pounds.

There are no figures in the Alaska reports for British Columbia and no news on the International Pacific Halibut Commission website.


More to come
Related: Recreational halibut quota buy-in program had “limited success:” DFO report to IPHC

Recreational halibut quota buy-in program had “limited success:” DFO report to IPHC

International Pacific Halibut Commission A report prepared by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for this week’s meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission in Anchorage says the controversial program where recreational fishers could buy quota from commercial fishers had only “limited success…with few pounds caught.”

The report also says that Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield will be making a “decision on any changes to the current allocation plan in advance of the 2012 fishing season.”

The IPHC report says:

For the 2011 season only, DFO implemented an experimental leasing program, where interested recreational fishers could receive experimental licenses that would allow them to lease halibut quota from commercial quota holders and allow continued sport fishing after the general sport fish closure. The program allowed for a market-based transfer system and provided the recreational sector access to fish outside their management allocation. The program had limited success with 4,000 pounds transferred with few pounds caught.

Later in the report, the IPHC says that DFO did not release to the commission the exact figures for halibut caught under the pilot project.

According to the report, once again the recreational catch exceeded its assigned quota. DFO provided a preliminary 2011 sport catch estimate of 1.220 million pounds, which exceeded the sport fishery allocation by 272,000 pounds (29%). Canada overall also exceeded its halibut quota. The report says “The total Area 2B catch of 7.87 million pounds was 3% over the combined total catch limit (7.65 million pounds).” The commercial fishery came in slightly under quota, “less than one per cent,” according to the report. Any difference can be allocated to the First Nations Food, Social and Ceremonial Fishery.

The IPHC says that DFO anticipated the controversial early closure of the recreational fishery. The report says: “The season was the shortest on record, opening on March 1 and closing on September 5. In August, DFO projected that the sport allocation would be reached before the usual December 31 season closing date, so an early closure was not unexpected.”

Although there are no figures to prove it, it is likely the decision by the recreational fishers to boycott the program was one reason for the “few pounds” caught as part of the pilot project.

The pilot project announced a year ago, and only for 2011, was intended by DFO as pilot project to get additional quota for recreational halibut fishers and guides from the commercial fishery. The announcement, however, brought anger and demonstrations across British Columbia by the recreational fishery. The halibut allocation dispute was a key issue in most BC coastal ridings during the May election, but wasn’t decisive enough to defeat Conservative candidates such as John Duncan in Vancouver Island North, who kept his seat in a very close vote.

The IPHC opens its annual meeting on Tuesday, January 24, 2012, and concludes on Friday, January 27. The IPHC meeting will also consider recommendations for drastic cuts in halibut quotas all along the western coast of North America for the 2012 season, due to uncertainty about the long term health of the biomass.

The IPHC recommends a total west coast quota of 33.135 million pounds for 2012, a decrease of approximately 19% from 2011. The recommended season will run from March 15 to November 15. It says “This recommendation is a compromise between minimizing interceptions of migrating fish and providing opportunity for market presence of fish wild halibut.”

The proposed quota for British Columbia area 2B is 6,633,000 pounds, down 13.3%. The IPHC staff paper recommends that current Canadian policy of 88 per cent for commercial and 12 per cent for recreational halibut be continued. Recreational fishers and guides have objected to that quota for the past several years.

One of the major problems facing the halibut fishery along the west coast, according to the report, is the large number of undersized females in the total biomass. Any large catch of immature females would have drastic long term consequences on the halibut stock and therefore the halibut fishery.

A staff paper to be considered at the meeting calls for reconsideration of the minimum allowable size, balancing a suggestion to catch more immature males while maintaining the female stock until it can mature and produce a new generation.

Any announcement of a new Canadian policy by Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield will be based on a 2011 long review of the Pacific halibut allocation that looked at the long-term options for allocation with objectives of conservation, economic prosperity, and flexibility. The review process included meetings with policy makers, stakeholders, and sector representatives.

You can retrieve the complete IPHC Annual Meeting Blue Book here.

Links: Alaska legislature looks at state’s halibut crisis: Alaska Dispatch

Environment Fishery Link

 In Alaska’s dispute over halibut allocation in that state, Alaska Dispatch is reporting State to look at proposed Alaska halibut charter regulations:

With a deadline fast approaching on a federal plan to reduce the number of fish allocated to Alaska halibut charter businesses and hand them over to commercial fishermen, a handful of state legislators say they are going to take a look at the issue. To date, the state has ignored a so-called “catch share plan” developed by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, an organization dominated by commercial fishing interests.

Earlier in August, the Alaska Dispatch, published articles highly critical of the state fishery management practices, called Alaska’s Mafia-style fisheries management.