We currently have Deryk Krefting who is one of our Directors up in Alaska at the IPHC meetings. The WCFGA has a seat on the Conference Board of Canada at the IPHC. As a sitting member, we have input into Canada’s Conference Board presentations regarding the eventual TAC Canada is assigned.
Canada is doing a good job representing our ability to manage the Halibut TAC in a professional and constructive manner. We have consistently managed within TAC and demonstrated a trustworthy track record.
Some of the issues we will be facing are recreational catch monitoring. DFO has been taking steps to improve the creel surveys through guide/lodge log books, over flights, creel samples and now the internet surveys (iREC). With the use of iREC now coming in 2016, this will add about 8 to 10% additional catch to our recreational creel. We are asking members to include log books in their fishing programs going forward so we can get more accurate catch data in areas and times where there is no creel data and as such the iREC survey has to be used to help address gaps. We are not 100% sold on iREC being accurate, and may over-estimate catch based on survey bias.
Going into 2016, we will be faced with reductions to our available Halibut TAC due to inclusion of iREC catch data and also catch and release mortality or “discards.” At the moment the discards based on 2015 would be around 34,000 pounds and about 20,000 pounds for additional iREC catch. This is more TAC that the rec fishery used in 2015 for Feb and March combined. Thus you can see the impacts.
The only way forward without seeing some increasingly more restrictive management measures will be for Canada to achieve a higher TAC for 2016. At the moment it would appear the halibut biomass is increasing so we are aiming to argue for higher TAC. Current blue line assessment is 7.35 million pounds for Canada compared to 7.035 million last year. This is only an estimate and is not the final TAC assessment. We will hear more on January 29 when the official announcement is made.
Regardless the WCFGA is at the table helping establish an improved TAC allocation decision for Canada. From there DFO will have to determine how the 15% TAC is then managed for the recreational fishery. Those decisions will be made at the SFAB process next weekend.
Being involved and at the table is one of the key benefits of belonging to the WCFGA. We are a lobby organization, and being connected as guides places us in a unique position to advocate for recreational fishers and guides. It allows us to speak with one voice on key issues, and hopefully help contribute to improving recreational opportunity for our guests.