IPHC Annual Meeting



On my first day in the role of the Executive Director of the Deep Sea Fishermen's Union I found myself flying off to Victoria, British Columbia for the 2017 Annual Meeting of International Pacific Halibut Commission. I took as a good omen for things to come that while heading northward I spotted the "schooner fleet" docked at Fishermen's Terminal, located in Ballard's Salmon Bay 

- Jim Johnson | Executive Director | DSFU


 

The 2017 Annual International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) conference board was the classic epic contest between the various interests of 8 regulatory areas. Of course, Canada led the way sighting a huge discrepancy between IPHC survey results and the commercial Weight Per Unit of Effort (WPUE). Our Alaskan friends followed up with their own claim that for 2C, that the fish in area 2 swam back and forth between 2B and 2C and therefore 2C should get more than the existing sustainability benchmark (the “blue line”) as well. 

The IPHC introduced a new metric called the Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR). It is a concept used in many other fisheries and not fully understood by many of us present at the conference board. As a result the "blue line" will be phased out and replaced by the SPR line. 

In this year’s decision table, the SPR lies below the "line formerly known as blue", which means greater catch recommendations by a couple million pounds. The Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union held firm to its resolution to support “the Blue Line” across the board (total removals of 37.91 million lbs), causing some to label us "Debbie Downer.”

The conference board, as well as the processors board, settled at over 44 million pounds, far above the IPHC tipping point of 40 million pounds. Beyond 40 million pounds the risks of rapid decline in the halibut stocks increase significantly. North Pacific Fishermen's Association (Homer) joined us in our support of “the Blue Line” and though we were significantly outvoted, we were able to get a minority report included in the conference board’s final draft report, as well as a verbal statement to the commissioners themselves. 

There was a "mandated agreement" that catch amount motions made should not be put forth by anyone that does not fish in a particular area. The Fishing Vessel Owners Association (FVOA) did not involve themselves in the Area 2 fight and went with slightly higher numbers than “the blue line” from 3A west (an average between the blue line and the SPR line) which came fairly close to the 40 million pound tipping point.

The evening festivities included receptions put on by IPHC and the Halibut Association of North America, a good place to meet and greet the commissioners, scientists, processors, fellow Canadian fishermen and IPHC's new executive director Dr. David Wilson, former director of the tuna fleet. We were able to get our book in his hands and hopefully he reads it.

Our new Executive Director, Jim Johnson, experienced his first week on the job while attending the IPHC Conference. He came away impressed with the open, democratic and collaborative nature of the proceedings. While he was dismayed by the trawler bycatch figures and somewhat disappointed with any deviations from “the Blue Line” measure of sustainability, he was impressed with the leadership demonstrated by members of the DSFU and the FVOA in helping reach the decision of the Commission’s recommendation to the governments of Canada and the United States catch limits for 2017 totaling 31.40 million pounds.

- Jan Standaert | Vice-President |  DSFU

 

IPHC Announces 2017 Catch Limits and Seasons

The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) completed its Ninety-third Annual Meeting in Victoria, BC, Canada on 27 January, 2017. More than 200 halibut industry stakeholders attended the meeting, with approximately 80 more participating in web broadcasts of the public sessions.

The Commission is recommending to the governments of Canada and the United States catch limits for 2017 totaling 31.40 million pounds, available here.

Fish Expo

Pacific Marine Expo, commonly referred to as “the fish expo”by mariners in the know  is the largest commercial marine trade show on the West Coast, serving commercial mariners from Alaska to California. Mariners will find more than 450 exhibitors including equipment companies, propulsion manufacturers, builders and suppliers. Mariners will also find the fish expo to be an educational experience with education sessions on marine safety, business management, regulatory issues and technical advancements just to name a few. If you’re a hands on kind of person you are apt to find daily events including live demonstrations and the annual Fisherman of the Year Contest. Finally, what is a fish expo without End of day Happy Hours, nothing like free drinks to help fuel the conversation with vendors and colleagues where embellishment leads to bigger seas and larger fish.

Sablefish Stock Assessment

On November 14,2016, I attended the much anticipated Groundfish Plan Team meeting  held at the NOAA Western Regional Center in the Alaska Fisheries Science Center building on Sand Point Way in Seattle. Although the Plan Team meeting covers many different species of fish, the predominant draw for myself and other Union members is the annual stock assessment for black cod or sablefish. In recent years the stock assessment for black cod has not been favorable and as a result, our Total Allowable Catch or TAC has declined. However, at the most recent meeting the stock assessment conducted during the 2016 fishing season  appears to not only become healthier for the upcoming 2017 fishing season, but models show a positive trend in the near future. The Plan Team suggested a 14% increase in the black cod TAC across the board, but for the first time in their stock assessment, the effects of killer and sperm whale predation are being considered. As a result, the black cod TAC is said to be going up by 12% across all regulatory areas. In my opinion we have a bright future on our horizon!