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IPHC commissioners to continue discussion over catch limits

Courtesy of the International Pacific Halibut Commission

U.S. and Canadian members on the International Pacific Halibut Commission, or IPHC, met earlier this month in an effort to resolve their differences over how Pacific halibut are distributed between regulatory areas.

The commission shocked the fishing industry in January after it could not agree on catch limits for 2018, bringing years of disagreement to a head.

Canadian commissioners and fishermen say the IPHC’s annual stock assessment doesn’t accurately reflect the health of halibut stocks in area 2B off the coast of British Columbia and have argued for higher catch limits.

This year’s stock assessmentsuggests that halibut along the West Coast are on the decline, and U.S commissioners argue Canadian fishermen are overharvesting the resource while the U.S. fishermen are taking cuts.

The idea behind this month’s unofficial work session was to begin talks about an interim plan for distributing the resource.

“We’re looking for a three-year interim commitment for both sides before we institute a coast-wide harvest strategy," U.S. commissioner Bob Alverson explained, "which is supposed to be implemented here in two to three years. In that interim fix, hopefully we can come to an agreement of how much fish is supposed to be in 2B and the other areas.”

IPHC staff was on hand to explain the current system it uses to convert summer survey results into its annual stock assessment it releases before the the commissions interim meeting in November. Alverson says the conversation was productive, but did not result in any concrete proposals.

“I’m kind of in wait and see of what the Canadians are going to suggest to us since it’s their area that’s in dispute," Alverson said. "We’re not disputing the apportionment in the other U.S. areas.”

None of the three Canadian commissioners could be reached in time for this story.

According to an IPHC press release, commissioners did agree to meet on the issue again.

Alverson says those meetings might take place in June and late August. He said the topic will also likely be discussed at the commission’s annual work session in September.

Commissioners hope to form an interim plan that it can take formal action on at its annual meeting next January.

Aaron Bolton has moved on to a new position in Montana; he is no longer KBBI News Director. KBBI is currently seeking a News Director, and Kathleen Gustafson is filling in for the time being.
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