Assessment of the status and available yield from stocks of Pacific halibut is conducted annually during the fall and considers the results of research surveys, commercial fisheries and biological studies conducted by International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) staff during the previous fishing season (the fishing season is usually set from March 15 to November 15 of each year, but the opening date has varied in recent years to sometimes as early as late February).
IPHC staff then makes recommendations to the Commission (there are three Commissioners from each country – Canada and the United States) and the halibut industry, for consideration at the IPHC’s annual meeting, which is held in January of each year.
A framework of threshold and limit reference points is followed by the IPHC. It includes a mechanism for reducing the harvest rate in any of the Stock Areas if the threshold reference point is reached.
The Canadian portion of the fishery is conducted in Stock Area 2B. Once catch limits have been finalized at the annual meeting, management of the fishery is executed under IPHC and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) regulations. DFO is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Canadian halibut fishery.
Since 1991 the commercial halibut fishery has been managed under an individual vessel quota (IVQ) regime. Under IVQ management, each halibut licence is granted a pre-determined share of the total allowable catch before the fishing season starts.
Through the PHMA, halibut fishers have entered into formal co-management arrangements and assumed a greater role in the day-to-day operations of the fishery. This initiative is part of the commercial halibut industry’s commitment to fish responsibly and be accountable for its actions, its fishery and its future.
The commercial halibut fishery is tightly controlled:
- vessel masters must complete logbooks that document fishing location and catch.
- commercial halibut landings occur only at designated ports.
- every single halibut landed by the commercial fleet is validated, weighed and tagged with a unique serial number by a third party contractor paid for by licence holders.
- all halibut vessels carry industry-funded, electronic video monitoring systems that record fishing location and catch composition during at-sea operations. These electronic monitoring systems were developed with R&D seed funding from the PHMA.
Canada’s Pacific commercial halibut fishery is often used as a model of successful fisheries management and industry co-operation. This is in large part due to the efforts of the PHMA and its Board of Directors.