Evaluating the Needs of the California Halibut Fishery: A Progress Report

Data collection at Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco
Collecting halibut length, sex, and age data from a commercial trawl landing to inform the stock assessment, at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
CDFW photo by K. Lesyna

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is committed to working with stakeholders to evaluate the needs of the California halibut fishery and community. Since holding two public webinars in summer/fall 2021, CDFW staff have made advances in several priority areas, as outlined below.

2020 Stock Assessment
To improve the performance and accuracy of the California halibut stock assessment, CDFW is responding to 2020 stock assessment review panel recommendations by collecting additional data, conducting further analysis, and making data and assessment model improvements. Given these updates, another peer review will likely be conducted. We hope that a revised stock assessment will support a more informed management strategy evaluation. We look forward to making the revised stock assessment available as soon as possible and invite you to review the executive summary.

fisherman and net
Trawl fisherman explains how he designed and installed a jellyfish excluder on his net.
CDFW photo by K. Lesyna

Bycatch Evaluation
For commercial gill net and trawl fisheries, catching sub-legal sized California halibut and other species is of particular concern. CDFW and partners have undertaken a two-part study evaluating bycatch in California state-managed trawl and gill net fisheries, including the California halibut fisheries. Moss Landing Marine Laboratory is currently supporting CDFW in compiling available information, calculating bycatch/landing ratios, and assessing the spatial distribution of bycatch of marine species. The next phase of the study will aim to characterize bycatch specifically for California halibut in order to meet the ecosystem-based objectives of the Marine Life Management Act. With this information at hand, CDFW will be able to engage in an informed discussion with stakeholders about potential management measures to minimize bycatch and protect the ecosystem.

California halibut
Environmental relationships may play a role in the strength of halibut year classes.
CDFW photo by K. Lesyna

Ecosystem Considerations
CDFW is working with the Farallon Institute to better understand California halibut prey-predator relationships and environmental relationships (for example oceanographic and climate). This information may help to identify California halibut characteristics that can be incorporated into a decision-making framework for management.

We look forward to future discussions with the stakeholder community as we work together to evaluate potential management strategies for the California halibut fishery. Please remember to visit the CDFW California Halibut Scaled Management Process web page for more information, and subscribe to receive email updates. Details about the recently held webinars, including a key themes summary and frequently asked questions document, are available at the web page above. You are also welcome to email mlmafisheriesmgmt@wildlife.ca.gov with any questions or concerns.

post by Kirsten Ramey, CDFW Environmental Program Manager