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New gulf halibut management system leads to 102% price increase since start

September 25, 2017

In 2013, the Newfoundland and Labrador gulf halibut fishery moved from a derby fishery to a more measured and economically valuable management system that allows the quota to be landed over a period of many weeks.

Back in 2012, the entire halibut quota was caught, and overrun, in just 29 hours. This approach was not only economically poor as it floods the market in just one day, giving harvesters a lower price for their catch, but it also presented serious safety risks to harvesters who are under extreme pressure to fish as much as possible in a short period of time.

The gulf halibut fishery has no dockside monitoring program, which is a change from the derby fishery when dockside monitoring only had to be provided for a few days. Instead of dockside monitoring, harvesters are required to affix tags to their halibut that DFO can use for monitoring and enforcement purposes. Harvesters have the choice between a generic DFO monitoring tag or a traceability tag. Traceability tags allow the consumer to trace certain aspects of their product – who caught it, when, where, and what processor it was sold to. Traceability creates an engagement mechanism between harvesters and consumers, and helps to promote a Newfoundland and Labrador product, which in turn builds value. Both tag options are the same cost.

Moving away from a derby fishery has produced strong price benefits for harvesters. Flooding the market with fresh halibut during a derby fishery was not good for prices, which were not able to adjust to price fluctuations throughout the year.

Without the current Gulf halibut fishery plan, the current collective agreement on halibut would not be possible. The collective agreement provides harvesters with an actual share of what the buyer receives in the market. Overall, harvesters receive approximately 75% of the value of the halibut sold to the market, which is amongst the highest for any species. This system is not possible without a fishery that is spread out over weeks and months.

The returns to harvesters proves the effectiveness of our result. In 2012, the average price for halibut to harvesters was $3.50/lb. In 2016 it was $7.18 and thus far in 2017 it has been $7.00. In 2013, 2014, and 2015 prices were also higher.

The Gulf halibut plan has also opened up the fishery to more participants. In 2012, there were approximately 300 enterprises in the halibut fishery; in 2016 there were more than 500. Thus, more of our members were able to benefit from this very valuable fishery. To participate in the halibut fishery, harvesters must meet certain criteria and pay a registration fee that covers the cost of tags and administration of the halibut fishery. The registration fee is $200.