Commercial halibut fishery opens with 24.9 million pounds allowable harvest

The 2023 Alaska commercial Pacific halibut fishery opens today, March 10, with overall catch limits decreased to 24.9 million pounds, down 11.29% from 28.07 million pounds a year ago.

For Alaska, which gets the lion’s share of the allocation for the West Coast, the catch for the succulent whitefish was cut to just under 19 million pounds down from 21.5 million pounds in 2022.

For the Central Gulf of Alaska, the allowable commercial harvest this year is 7.84 million pounds, down nearly 18% from a year ago. In the Western Gulf that allowable catch is 3.09 million pounds, down nearly 8%. The Aleutian Islands region was hardest hit, with the catch cut by nearly 20% to 1.41 million pounds. Southeast Alaska is allocated 3.4 million pounds of halibut, which is down 2.85%. In Area 4B in the Aleutian Islands the catch is now 1.22 million pounds, a nearly 4.7% cut, and in the Bering Sea, Area 4CDE, harvesters are restricted to a harvest of 2.02 million pounds, down nearly 2%.

A notice in the Federal Register on Tuesday, March 7, noted that the International Pacific Halibut Commission makes its recommendations regarding Pacific Halibut harvests pursuant to the convention between Canada and the United State for the preservation of the halibut fishery of the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea signed in Ottawa in March of 1953, and as amended in March of 1979.

The IPHC apportions catch limits for the Pacific halibut fishery among regulatory areas, including Area 2A (Oregon, Washington, and California), Area 2B (British Columbia), Area 2C (Southeast Alaska), Area 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska), Area 3B (Western Gulf of Alaska), and Area 4 (which is further divided into 5 areas, 4A through 4E, in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands of Western Alaska).