Commercial fisheries for Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) and sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) have occurred off the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and Alaska for more than a hundred years. Carrothers (1941) estimates that British Columbia natives consumed more than 272 metric tons of halibut per year in the late 1880s. Development of large-scale commercial fisheries for halibut was stimulated by the completion of transcontinental railroads in the late 1880s. Carrothers (1941) reports that coastwide commercial landings of halibut exceeded 808 metric tons in 1889, 3,126 metric tons in 1899, and 9,866 metric tons in 1909. With the depletion of nearshore fishing grounds, Canada and the United States negotiated the Halibut Treaty of 1923 and established the International Fisheries Commission (later renamed the International Pacific Halibut Commission, IPHC) to investigate the halibut resource and recommend conservation measures. With the passage of the Fishery Conservation and Management Act (FCMA) of 1976 and similar legislation in Canada to establish 200-mile fishery conservation zones, and renewal of the halibut convention in 1979, the North Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 delegated limited entry and allocation decisions to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) and North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC). Canadian halibut fishermen were excluded from U.S. waters (and vice versa) in 1978. Recent catches of halibut and sablefish are depicted in Figure G.1.
From its inception in the 1950s through the early 1980s, the sablefish fishery off Alaska was dominated by foreign fishing operations (Figure G.2).