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Wednesday, November 03, 2010 at 2:37 pm

STONINGTON — West Coast fisheries biologist Steven J. Kaimmer traveled to Stonington recently to share his Pacific halibut fishery research and management experience with fishermen and scientists at Penobscot East Resource Center’s dockside headquarters.

Kaimmer’s visit came at the invitation of Downeast halibut fishermen, the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and Penobscot East.

Kaimmer has spent more than 20 years working for the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) based in Seattle, Wash. The IPHC was established in 1923 by a convention between the governments of the United States and Canada. Its mandate is research on and management of the stocks of Pacific halibut within the waters of both nations.

“The Pacific halibut fishery is well recognized as one of the best-managed fisheries in the world,” said Penobscot East Community Coordinator Carla Guenther.

This fishery’s success, according to Kaimmer, is largely due to the effective co-management system the IPHC has developed and the many years of stock assessment decisions based on a steady stream of data provided by fishermen in their logbooks.

In Maine, fishermen in Washington and Hancock counties land more than 90 percent of the state’s halibut catch. Last year, those landings were worth around $340,000 dockside according to preliminary information compiled by DMR.

The Pacific and Atlantic halibut appear to be biologically similar, with stocks on both coasts spanning U.S. and Canadian waters. Given these similarities and the success of the Pacific halibut fishery, it may be appropriate to compare stock assessment methods, Kaimmer said.

Under debate now in Maine are the size of the Gulf of Maine halibut stock size and whether to increase the minimum size for legal halibut. Current regulations set the limit at 41 inches head on or 32 inches head off, from base of the pectoral fin to tip of the tail.

Fishermen and scientists disagree over whether a commercial halibut fishery might become an economically viable supplemental fishery in the eastern Gulf of Maine. Along with initiatives aimed at helping the lobster fishery, the Penobscot East Resource Center operates several programs aimed at promoting a diversified year-round eastern Gulf of Maine fishery.

For more maritime news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.