Successful SF Bay Halibut Catch Triggers DFG Survey to Ensure Sustainable Fishery

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Posted by CDFG Press Release on July 01, 2008 at 12:26:55:

California Department of Fish and Game


Contacts: Paul Reilly, DFG Senior Marine Biologist, (831) 649-2879
Steve Martarano, DFG Office of Communications, (916) 322-8639

Successful San Francisco Bay Halibut Catch Triggers DFG Survey to
Ensure Sustainable Fishery

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) will monitor the San Francisco
Bay halibut fishery to ensure that current regulations are protecting
the species from overfishing. Recreational anglers and commercial
hook-and-line fishermen are harvesting a higher than normal number of
halibut from the bay for this time of year.

“This successful harvest is likely due to a strong class of halibut
that were born in 2004 and such reproduction is historically
infrequent,” said DFG Director Donald Koch. “Although there is no
indication that the halibut fishery is not sustainable, additional
scientific data will allow us to better assess how the species should be
managed, particularly in booming population years.”

A minimum legal size is a commonly-used management tool intended to
allow the fish to reach reproductive size before being subjected to
fishing pressure. Recreational and commercial halibut fisheries require
fish to be at least 22 inches in total length. The length and weight of
the fish are routinely collected for the fisheries; when possible,
otoliths (ear bones) are taken for age determination. To evaluate the
impact of various gear types on the survival of released halibut, DFG
will also conduct a hooking mortality study within San Francisco Bay
this summer. The study will help demonstrate the effectiveness of the
size limit regulation.

The California halibut fishery is known to exhibit geographic
fluctuations and anglers should be aware that the fish tend to migrate
inshore in the spring and summer to forage and spawn. After spawning,
the adults generally move offshore in the fall and winter.

During El Niño events, halibut larvae may be transported into northern
California and after these fish grow to the minimum legal size of
22-inches in length they provide significant fishing opportunities in
some years. In addition, juveniles and adults may move northward during
these events.

In addition to monitoring halibut in San Francisco Bay, DFG is also
observing halibut fisheries at various locations within California and a
formal stock assessment is expected to begin later this year. The
assessment will be the first statewide evaluation of the halibut
resource and is designed to provide an accurate estimate of the
population size, as well as the amount of fishing pressure that the
fishery can safely sustain.

The recreational halibut fishery is monitored through the California
Recreational Fisheries Survey. Commercial and charter boat halibut catch
is monitored by DFG though landing receipts and logbooks.

The primary distribution of California’s halibut stock is from
central California to northern Baja California. All fishery regulation
changes are under the jurisdiction of the Fish and Game Commission.
Legislation would be required to change the commercial minimum size
limit for halibut.

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