Area 2A is unique within the International Pacific Halibut Commission area because of the 13 Treaty Tribes that have fishing rights through Treaties and backed by court rulings. The Makah Tribe in Neah Bay submitted a written proposal for Area 2A to receive 1.5 million pounds of quota. Prior to the IPHC meeting several people and groups have endorsed this proposal, including Dave Croonquist and myself. During yesterday’s U.S. meeting the Tribe’s testified in support of their proposal as well as numerous others from California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Our three Commissioners also recognized Area 2A’s uniqueness because of the Treaties.
Because of a catch sharing plan between Tribes, commercials and sports anglers, any increase in quota will result in more fishing days/quota for Washington sport anglers as well as sport anglers in California and Oregon. The catch sharing plan allocates 35% of the Area 2A TAC (Total Allowable Catch) to U.S. treaty Indian Tribes in the State of Washington and 65% to non-Indian fisheries in Area 2A.
Simply put, an increase in quota helps everyone within the 2A IPHC area, not just the Tribes. Therefore we must support the Makah’s proposal of 1.5 million pounds for Area 2A. Some might wonder if the area can withstand this level of harvest. According to Tribal fisheries managers they say yes.
“The Makah proposal for at FCEY (Fishery Constant Exploitation Yield) of 1.5 Mlbs, corresponding to a TCEY (Total Constant Exploitation Yield) of 1.65 Mlbs, that would benefit the entire area of 2A is based on historic removals from area 2A as well as current setline survey WPUE. In previous years with similar setline survey WPUE our catch area has supported maximum total removal of just over 2 million pounds without a substantial change of biomass within area 2A.” explains Joe Petersen, Makah Groundfish Biologist.
“For reference in the period of 2002-2008 the average TCEY in area 2A was 1,794,000 lbs with a corresponding survey WPUE (Weight Per Unit Effort) of 23.8 lbs. From 2009-present the average TCEY was 1,270,000 with an average corresponding survey WPUE of 22.7 lbs. This represents a 30% reduction in quota with only a 4.7% reduction in survey WPUE. If the harvest levels had been to high from 2002-2008 one would expect to have seen some evidence of that in declining survey WPUE.”
Also note, last year the IPHC setline survey showed few halibut off the Washington Coast because of the hypoxia event which resulted in an overall reduced quota recommendation. The argument from Tribal fisheries managers and the sports fishing community was simple — the survey took place during summer months after typical halibut harvest times and during an anomaly not consistent with the Washington Coast. Last year’s setline survey rebounded and showed increased numbers of halibut which we believe will support a quota of 1.5 million quota.
Overall last year’s setline survey showed slightly higher numbers of halibut compared to 2018. The increase in halibut was likely due to “recruits” from six year old halibut entering the catch and from expanded areas in the setline survey.
If the IPHC approves the Makah proposal of 1.5 million pounds of quota it would result in a Washington sport fishing quota of about 277,000 pounds, an increase of roughly 52,000 pounds as follows.
Puget Sound — 77,549 pounds
North Coast (Neah Bay La Push) — 128,187 pounds
South Coast — 62,894 pounds
Columbia River (Ilwaco) — 8,467 pounds
The above numbers are estimates only and not yet agreed upon by IPHC. This is what the delegation from Area 2A is working to achieve while still supporting conservation and sustainability of the resource. As developments occur I will keep everyone informed.