Vessels to conduct summer halibut surveys for IPHC

Posted: Monday, July 03, 2006

KODIAK - The fishing vessel Styrian Knight from Vancouver, British Columbia, is one of 13 vessels conducting halibut surveys for the International Pacific Halibut Commission this summer.

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Ken Johnson, captain of the Styrian Knight, said during a recent stop in Kodiak that they are performing a biological study to assist the IPHC determine halibut quotas.

"They study each fish that comes up, count how many hooks we have and do a survey," he said.

The IPHC monitors 27 different regions and the Styrian Knight will perform their charter in two of those regions. It is part of the commission's annual stock assessment research in conjunction with commercial fishermen.

The commission hires both U.S. and Canadian vessels. They typically work June through August and have from one to three biologists onboard.

"We put the work up for bid every year," IPHC survey manager Claude Dykstra said. "Canadian and American vessels bid on doing the work and we end up with a mix of both Canadian and American vessels working in each other's waters."

The 13 vessels hired this summer will cover 1,369 areas from southern Oregon to the western end of the Aleutian Islands and north into the Bering Sea and St. Matthew Island.

The biologists collect information on every halibut caught, including juveniles. Normally, IPHC doesn't get information on the younger population of halibut because the commercial fishery brings in only legal-sized animals.

"These boats are fishing standardized gear year after year so we can monitor what stocks are doing," Dykstra said. "We fish both commercial fishing grounds and non-commercial fishing grounds with these research boats."

The boats cover the territory halibut live in, whereas the commercial fleet targets areas with higher return for their effort.

"We're looking at good fishing areas and bad fishing areas. It gives us a better picture of what the stocks are doing," Dykstra said.

The survey is designed to be cost-neutral. All the legal-sized fish that are caught are sold to fund the research, which includes hiring the vessels and staff wages, Dykstra said.

"The research catch is being used to fund the whole project so we're not taking taxpayers' money," he said.

Johnson said the Styrian Knight normally fishes for salmon and herring in Canadian waters.

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