NOAA walks back talk of renegotiating halibut treaty

Mar 21, 2018

Credit Image courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration removed a reference to renegotiating the “Halibut Treaty” between the U.S. and Canada from a press release Wednesday. NOAA issued the release Monday to announce the final regulatory rule for the 2018 halibut season, but later removed the reference.

Both the U.S. and Canada regulate Pacific halibut along the West Coast through the International Pacific Halibut Commission, which sets the total allowable catch for the valuable bottom fish. The commission could not come to an agreement in January on the quotas for 2018. Both countries went on to set quotas through their own domestic rule-making processes.

“International trade policies must be free, fair, and reciprocal, including our nation's  international fisheries treaties and agreements.,” the release said. “Failure of the IPHC to reach agreement may result in the U.S. seeking re-negotiation of the Halibut Treaty to improve the circumstances for U.S. fisherman. Until the treaty is re-negotiated, we must operate under the current treaty.”

A screenshot of NOAA's release sent out Monday.
Credit Aaron Bolton, KBBI News

KBBI reached out to NOAA and the State Department for comment immediately following the release. NOAA Spokesperson Julie Speegle told KBBI via email Tuesday that the Commerce and State departments, which halibut regulations pass through during the rule-making process, and NOAA would not comment further.

The reference to any potential negotiations was removed from the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office website sometime Wednesday.

Speegle told KBBI that, “upon further review, the agency determined that the statement did not accurately reflect NOAA or the State Department.”

KBBI also reached out to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. In a statement, the agency said it is not involved in or aware of any potential negotiations.

The treaty between the two countries has been in place since 1923 and established the International Pacific Halibut Commission. The treaty was last amended in 1979.