For the first time in five years, DFO has put an early end to the recreational halibut fishery.
DFO says on September 6th that based on catch data for the year it was estimated the fishery would reach its annual allocation by the middle of this month. The catch of halibut this year was larger than in previous years. Neil Davis, the Director of Resource Management for DFO, says the last time the department closed the fishery early was 2012. The halibut commercial fishery isn’t affected by the early closure.
Davis expects the commercial season will last into mid-November. Small charter companies and rec fishermen can still fish for halibut, but need to apply for an experimental license. There is no charge for the license. To qualify the angler must acquire quota from a commercial fishermen or from someone who is a holder of the experimental license. You can buy as little as 20 pounds of a quota.
Owen Bird is with the Sport Fishing Institute of BC, and points out last year the sport fishery was allotted about 60,000 pounds of halibut. This years allowable catch is similar, but Bird believes the biomass is growing from year to year and DFO didn’t have to resort to cutting the season short for rec anglers. He also dislikes the experimental license program. He notes there is virtually no enforcement around the program and fishermen can reconcile their quota as long as they do it by December 31st. Bird calls the program a ticket to cheat the system.