After announcements of a massive drop in cod stocks, the industry learned last week that Pacific halibut catches are likely to drop by 20 percent next year, and the declines could continue for several years.
That could bring the coastwide catch for 2018, meaning from Oregon to British Columbia to the Bering Sea, to about 31 million pounds.
Scientists at the International Pacific Halibut Commission interim meeting in Seattle revealed that survey results showed halibut numbers were down 23 percent from last summer, and the total biomass (weight) dropped 10 percent. The surveys are done each year from May through September at nearly 1,500 stations from Oregon to the far reaches of the Bering Sea.
While the Pacific halibut catches have ticked up slightly over the past three years, indications of a fall back have been noted, said IPHC senior scientist Ian Stewart.
The biggest drop stems from a lack of younger fish entering the halibut fishery. Stewart said the 9- to 18-year-old year classes that have been sustaining the recent halibut fishery are not being followed up by younger fish.