WA/OR/CA Pacific Halibut Longline Fishery - MMPA List of Fisheries
U.S. fisheries are classified under the Marine Mammal Protection Act according to the level of incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals.
Current Classification on the List of Fisheries
|Estimated Number of Participants||130|
|Target Species||Pacific halibut|
|Applicable Take Reduction Plans||None|
|Observer Coverage||In 2017 and 2018, observer coverage of the directed derby fishery was 8% and 25%, respectively.|
|Marine Mammal Species/Stocks Killed or Injured||None documented|
Basis for Current Classification
Classified as a Category III fishery based on the lack of documented mortality or serious injuries of marine mammals based on the available data.
The Pacific halibut commercial fishery occurs throughout the North Pacific Ocean within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This geographic area is divided into 10 regulatory areas encompassed within 3 major areas (2, 3, and 4) that were established by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). The use of longlines to target Pacific halibut occurs along the Continental U.S. West Coast (excluding Alaska) in what is known as Area 2A, which includes the entire EEZ off of WA, OR, and CA.
Fishermen usually target Pacific halibut at depths of 15-150 fathoms (27-274 meters) where they prefer to hang out in current calming “hydraulic relief zones” such as depressions, valleys, and rock formations at the bottom of the sea. Fishing may occur anytime between IPHC's season dates from mid-March through mid-November. The Area 2A non-tribal directed commercial fishery usually occurs in summer, generally from June-July, although in some years it could be extended until August. Landing Pacific halibut as incidental catch during the sablefish longline fishery is allowable, but only for vessels participating in the sablefish Limited Entry fixed gear fishery from April 1 to October 31 with a valid license from the IPHC.
A long main line is used which consists of a lead core that allows it to sink to the ocean floor. The main line is made of nylon or a polyurethane-blend roughly 5/16th of an inch in width. The main line (or ground line) can be up to 1.5 nautical miles long and set on the bottom with an anchor (25-50 pounds) at each end. Hooks are attached to the main line every 3-4 feet with a “gangion” made of nylon or monofilament line connected with a snap or tied on. The most common hooks used are size 16/0 circle hooks baited with live squid, mackerel heads, or artificial bait resembling sardine or anchovy. Pacific halibut is also incidentally caught with fixed gear (longline) in the sablefish fishery, which uses similar gear.
Pacific halibut fishing off the U.S. West Coast is managed by the IPHC, which sets the total allowable catch (TAC) for the major regulatory areas each January. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) apportions the Area 2A TAC among the West Coast states according to the PFMC’s Pacific halibut Catch Sharing Plan (CSP). Routine management of the non-tribal directed commercial Pacific halibut fishery is in a transition period. The management duties for this portion of the fishery are currently the responsibility of IPHC but will be transferring to PFMC and NOAA Fisheries in the near future. The IPHC will continue to set the TAC for Pacific halibut, and the PFMC will continue to develop a CSP.
The non-tribal directed commercial Pacific halibut fishery is an open access fishery which requires permits from the IPHC for fish targeted using longline gear or caught incidentally in fixed gear (longline) sablefish fisheries. There are strict size and catch limits. Logbooks are required for vessels that have an overall length of 26 feet or more. If catch limits are reached before the official closure dates, the fishery will be closed. There are no individual fishing quotas (IFQ’s) in this fishery, but there are landing ratios for the incidental catch fisheries and vessel limits per opener for the directed commercial fishery.
|Original Category (Year added to the LOF)||III (1996)|
|Original Number of Participants||350|
|Basis for Original Classification||Listed as Category III because the fishery was expected to have a remote likelihood of incidental serious injury or mortality of marine mammals. No observer, logbook, or stranding data were available.|
WA/OR Pacific halibut longline
WA/OR North Pacific halibut longline/setline
|Species/stocks historically documented as killed or injured (but not currently on the list)||None|
Timeline of Changes