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Halibut Regulations Update 2024

During January 22-26, 2024, the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) held it’s 100th annual meeting in Anchorage to determine decisions based on halibut mortality limits, fishing period dates, and other regulatory changes. The IPHC provides research and stock management of Pacific Halibut within Canada and the USA, established by a Convention between both countries. The IPHC Convention was originally signed by both parties on March 2, 1923; Its objective is, “To develop the stocks of Pacific halibut in the Convention waters to those levels which will permit the optimum yield from the fishery and to maintain the stocks at those levels.” At the IPHC annual meeting, the science advice provided to the commission was that the stock is at a thirty-year low in abundance. There are concerns about the future of the stock status, which is why the commissioners decide to reduce the fishing effort.

Comparatively, by weight, the 2023 Total Allowable Catch (TAC) was 6,780,000 lbs for Canada, and in 2024, the new coming season TAC for Canada is 6,470,000, a reduction of 310,000 lbs. TAC is a is a control measure agreed to by fishery managers to set objectives over a specific stock. DFO will calculate an apportionment between Commercial and Recreational, and from there, adjustments are made to deduct expected release or “discard” mortalities, prior year overages, and non-directed mortalities in other Canadian fisheries such as the Trawl fishery.

According to Pat Ahern, President of the West Coast Fishing Guides Association, “Future adjustments will be made to the new 6.47-million-pound TAC for Canada in 2024 to account for deductions for discard (or release) mortalities and then apportion per the 85/15 Commercial – Recreational allocations to land on a final Recreational TAC. Until these future adjustment calculations are complete, it is premature to speculate on the exact final available Recreational Halibut TAC and/or total reductions in pounds. UPDATE: The DFO announced halibut is open as of February 3, 2004. All in all, it’s good news for the fishery. Salmon fishing, due to high abundance, was incredibly good in 2023, which freed up additional time during the day for anglers to also enjoy halibut fishing on their trips. As a result, we reached (and exceed) the TAC early in 2023, which may be considered as a further deduction in the upcoming season.”

Halibut Fishing aboard Last Cast Guiding. Photo Joel Unickow

Chris Bos, Governor of the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition (SVIAC) commented on the website, “All-in-all yet another outstanding job done by our Canadian delegation and a big thank you to our commissioners for using their excellent negotiation skills dealing with the USA.”

Reactions from guides and halibut anglers have been positive. Gibran White, Head Guide Reel Obsession Sport Fishing in Zeballos, BC, said, “It is one of the resources that has been well managed, and appears to be working as the population of migratory halibut along the west coast of the island seem strong and healthy, which is really good for all user groups. Nothing is set in stone until the DFO announcement is made, but we are hopefully optimistic that there will be no size and limit changes for the 2024 season (2 fish under 90 cm, or 1 fish 90 cm to 126 cm daily possession).”

Rob Frawley, Lucky Strike Sportfishing Tofino. Photo: Joel Unickow

Rob Frawley, Owner/Operator of Lucky Strike Sportfishing Tofino, commented, “The early closure last year left a lot of us wanting more so we are eager and excited to get back on the water for the upcoming halibut season.”

Joel Unickow, Island Fisherman magazine

As a lover of halibut myself, I can’t wait for my annual early season trips. Time to book!

For those getting ready for halibut fishing, there are plenty of resource articles on Island Fisherman magazine’s website, and of course, in our printed magazine. In particular, these are recommended reading:

Halibut Anchoring Basics

White Gold: How To Find Halibut

Halibut Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

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