An expanded quota could mean more recreational fishing opportunity for halibut out of Westport this year.
The south coast quota for the 2019 season is 62,896 pounds, said Heather Hall, coastal policy coordinator for the State Department of Fish and Wildlife. That’s up significantly from the 2018 quota of 46,341 pounds.
“The quota is up for all areas,” she said.
Coastal recreational halibut quotas for the Washington coast are:
North Coast – Neah Bay and La Push, Marine areas 3 and 4: 128,187 pounds
South Coast – Westport, Marine Area 2: 62,896 pounds
Columbia River – Marine Area 1: 15,127 pounds
Quotas are set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission; their annual meeting ended last week and involved a recommendation from Washington Indian tribes.
“There was a unique discussion at the annual meeting that involved a recommendation forwarded by Washington tribes for area 2A, which includes Washington, California and Oregon, for a catch limit of 1.65 million pounds,” said Hall. “The rationale for that is we’re really at the low end of the range of the halibut resource and input from stock assessors said that quota wouldn’t negatively impact the halibut resource.”
The commission adopted this increased quota for four years, which “provides a little bit of stability going forward,” said Hall. She added that quotas can be adjusted in the case of “any substantive conservation concerns.”
Increased quota means increased opportunity and hopefully a longer season. The dates for the 2019 recreational fishery out of Westport are Thursday, May 2; Sunday May 5; Thursday, May 9; Sunday, May 12; and Friday, May 24. The already short seasons can be cut even shorter if quotas are met early.
“Our recreational fisheries can last just a handful of days,” said Hall.
The 2018 season was only four or five days; however, a larger quota means a better chance the season will be extended. According to the Fish and Wildlife website, there are rules in place that say if the quota is not met after scheduled recreational fishing days, the northern nearshore – out to 30 fathoms depth – Westport fishery will be open 7 days a week until the quota is met. Check the state halibut regulations for specific boundaries of the northern nearshore fishery.
The North Coast fishery dates are scheduled as Thursday, May 2; Saturday, May 4; Thursday, May 9; Saturday, May 11; Saturday, May 18; Friday, May 24; Sunday, May 26; Thursday, June 6; Saturday, June 8; Thursday, June 20; Saturday, June 22.
The Columbia River recreational halibut fishery dates are scheduled as Thursday, May 2; Sunday May 5; Thursday, May 9; Sunday, May 12; Friday, May 24; Sunday, May 26. If sufficient quota remains after May 26, the Columbia River subarea would be open two days per week, Thursday and Sunday, until the remaining quota is achieved.
In all marine areas, the daily limit is one halibut with no minimum size restriction; the season limit is four. Check the state fishing regulations at wdfw.wa.gov for marine area boundaries.