Regulators consider reducing Pacific halibut quota next year

KENAI, Alaska (AP) — Regulators are considering reducing the amount of halibut that fishermen are allowed to catch along the Pacific coast next year.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission is expected to consider next month adopting a 24 percent reduction to the annual Pacific halibut quota for fisheries from Alaska to California, the Peninsula Clarion reported .

The reduction was recommended due to low recruitment rates among young halibut populations over the last decade and increasing pressure on the fish stocks from commercial, subsistence and recreational fishing, according to a report presented to the intergovernmental organization at its meeting last month.

Alaskan fishermen caught more than 20.8 million pounds (9.4 million kilograms) of halibut this year in regulatory areas that cover waters in the Cook Inlet and Gulf of Alaska. A total of 42.4 million pounds (19.2 million kilograms) of the fish were caught across all the regulatory waters.

Halibut fishermen have faced increased restrictions in recent years as the fish populations in southern Alaska have declined. Halibut populations are projected to continue gradually declining for the next few years under the current fishing rates, according to the report.

The report recommended dropping the catch quota to 31 million pounds (14 million kilograms) as anything above would likely continue the halibut decline.

The commission is scheduled to make a final decision at its meeting in Portland, Oregon, in late January.