Following the Halibut: CDFW Tracks 2016 Recreational Pacific Halibut Catches to Keep Within Quota

Pacific halibut
Sport fisherman and California Recreational Fishery Survey staff with Pacific halibut. CDFW photo

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has monitored the recreational Pacific halibut catch to ensure it does not exceed the federally set annual quota since 2015. Active catch tracking during the season allows CDFW to manage the fishery in a timely and responsive way, and keep the catch within the quota.

The process for 2016 is the same one CDFW used to successfully track the fishery in 2015. CDFW tracks the catch using a combination of catch projections and catch estimates, and coordinates weekly with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), and the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) regarding progress towards the quota. If catch projections indicate the quota may be exceeded, NMFS has the authority to close the fishery early.

Successful management of the Pacific halibut fishery relies on weekly information to maintain a timely accounting of the catch. CDFW developed a weekly catch projection method to track the fishery during the six-week lag between a given fishing month and when that month’s catch estimate becomes available. This method uses the close relationship observed in the past between the number of sampled or reported fish that anglers kept (based on interviewing anglers at the docks), and the monthly catch estimates. For the 2016 fishing season, one sampled fish at the dock represents approximately 108 pounds of projected catch. The catch projection for a given month is replaced with the monthly catch estimate as soon as it becomes available.

Consistent with prior years, dockside sampling effort is designed to provide 20 percent coverage of the primary sample sites and modes (party-charter or private-rental boaters) and 10 percent coverage of secondary sample sites. This sampling rate is designed to account for variability in weather, fishing effort, availability of other targets, and so on, when generating catch estimates. Effective sampling depends in part on the cooperation of anglers. All field sampling is conducted by staff from CDFW’s California Recreational Fisheries Survey program.

The total preliminary projected catch for the Pacific halibut recreational fishery through August 15, 2016 is estimated to be 21,638 pounds, based on the monthly catch estimates for May and June plus the projected catch values for July and August.  In August, 8,889 pounds was projected to have been taken. The 2016 quota is 29,640 pounds, which leaves approximately 8,000 pounds remaining to be caught during the September and October fishing period.

You can see CDFW’s Pacific halibut catch thermometer, which is updated weekly during the open season, on the CDFW website. For a full description of the in-season tracking methodology as approved by the PFMC and the IPHC, please see the following CDFW reports:

CDFW Supplemental Report on Pacific Halibut Management Measures and Catch Tracking for 2015

CDFW Report on Recreational Pacific Halibut Catches in 2015

post by Deb Wilson-Vandenberg, CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Supervisor; Melanie Parker, CDFW Environmental Scientist, and Mary Patyten, CDFW Research Writer