Politics

Ray Hilborn tells US Senate overfishing shouldn’t be most important concern
Seafood Source by Steve Bittenbender – October 25, 2017
A U.S. Senate subcommittee considering the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act heard additional testimony Tuesday, with a University of Washington researcher telling lawmakers the U.S. is leaving money in the ocean.
https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/supply-trade/ray-hilborn-tells-us-senate-overfishing-shouldnt-be-most-important-concern

Environment/Science

Science and Industry Take Hard Look at Changing the Minimum Size Limit on Pacific Halibut
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker – November 1, 2017
The International Pacific Halibut Commission is taking a thorough look at changing the minimum size limit (MSL) for Pacific halibut from 32 inches to something less, or perhaps dropping it altogether.

The issue has been looked at many times in the 94 years the IPHC has been managing the giant flatfish. But interest today is triggered in part by decreasing size at age over the past several decades. The phenomenon means that in 1995, as an example, an 18-year-old female halibut weighed 70 pounds; today the same age female would be 37 pounds.

Biologists who study the issue say it appears the downward trend has stopped and weight at age has been static for a few years. Still, the impacts have been profound, including:

Biomass decline — The massive change in annual catch of 70 million pounds 20 years ago to 30 mlbs today is due to many factors, but change in weight at age is the single most important one. As the overall catch limit has declined, the quota assigned to shareholders has also diminished.

Fishery devaluation — due to less quota. Less quota triggers price increases in quota shares, however, making it much harder for fisherman to expand their portfolio.

Missed opportunity — based on the smaller size at age means some males (the smaller of the two genders) never actually grow to 32 inches to be caught in the commercial fishery. So the current size limit may have the unintended consequence of removing more females from the biomass than males.

What’s true coastwide, though, may not apply within the regions. Southeast Alaska, for instance, has seen less decline of weight at age than any other region.

But some industry stakeholders, and at least a few of the six U.S./Canadian Commissioners at the IPHC, speculated that lowering the MSL would ‘clean up’ some of the smaller older males that just aren’t growing fast enough to reach 32 inches in their lifetimes, and if the fleet targeted those fish, more of the larger females would be available for spawning.

In August, the IPHC put out a paper that provided background, yield calculation under a variety of scenarios, weighing a reduction in the MSL with its impact on catch distribution (from the northern Bering Sea to the waters off California), and the effects on market prices, structure, and overall fishery value. The paper also weighed the modest (4%) increase in yield against the protection given smaller fish under the current MSL.

“So, the question now is could you reduce the size limit and still have the same protection of the spawning biomass, but get some more yield out of the fishery?” said Steve Keith, the IPHC’s assistant director, during an interview with the Alaska public radio station KBBI last week.

“The amount of the retained catch doesn’t change very much, but the makeup of the catch would change,” Keith explained to Aaron Bolton of KBBI. “About a quarter of it would be fish under 32 inches.”

A scientific review board analyzed the IPHC paper last September and suggested the staff circulate it to the Management Strategy Advisory Board, Commissioners and stakeholders for feedback on experimenting with changing the MSL, seeing what data could be gained from it, and assessing the risks.

The MSAB met in early October to continue their work reviewing the halibut harvest policy, a long-term project intended to look at trade offs between different management procedures and how well they meet overall goals in the IPHC’s harvest policy.

As for taking on a new MSL, the Board opted to stay on course — they put a higher priority on their current 5-year work plan of evaluating the IPHC’s harvest policy.

In their final report, the MSAB noted that “if a stakeholder group came forward with a specific proposal on MSLs, it should be submitted” during the January 2018 IPHC Annual Meeting.

IPHC scientists offered four types of general MSL experiments, each with possible contributions to data on under-32” fish, market prices for smaller fish, and potential changes in catch efficiency.

The first option would be to remove the MSL for only one year, with the potential to maintain this change longer, depending on the results.

Second, take incremental action by reducing the MSL by 1” per year, with the potential to discontinue all changes or making additional changes at any point.

Third, use the observer program and remove the MSL for all directed commercial fishing activity that is monitored at sea (observed via people or electronically).

The last option was to choose a single biological region, remove the MSL for that area only or for an individual IPHC Regulatory Area.

The issue will be on the agenda for both the Interim Meeting of the IPHC, held in Seattle November 28-30, 2017 and at the Annual Meeting in Portland, January 22-26, 2018 in Portland, OR.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/1081229/Science-and-Industry-Take-Hard-Look-at-Changing-the-Minimum-Size-Limit-on-Pacific-Halibut

FYI’s

NOAA to announce findings from 2016 Fisheries of the U.S. report: Wednesday, November 1
October 31, 2017 On Wednesday, November 1, NOAA Fisheries will hold a media call to announce our 2016 Fisheries of the United States report.
NOAA- October 31, 2017
Scientists and statisticians will be on the line to discuss annual seafood landings and species values, top ports for commercial fisheries, trends in saltwater recreational angling, aquaculture production, and much more.
http://www.noaa.gov/media-advisory/noaa-to-announce-findings-from-2016-fisheries-of-us-report-wednesday-november-1

Watch: Last Hope: Coast Guard Alaska Search and Rescue
KOMO by Gabe Cohen – October 31, 2017
KODIAK, Alaska – Every year boats from Washington state head to Alaska for one of the most dangerous jobs known to man: commercial fishing.
http://komonews.com/news/local/last-hope-alaska-coast-guard-search-and-rescue

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
Office Manager
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Phone: 206.281.1667
E-mail: pspafish@gmail.com; Website: www.pspafish.net
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November 1, 2017