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Pacific Region Experimental Recreational Halibut Program


The Experimental Recreational Halibut Program provides opportunity for recreational harvesters to retain halibut in excess of the size and daily/possession limits under the Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence. It will test the management measures and monitoring requirements of a market-based transfer mechanism.

The experimental program was introduced due to feedback from harvesters that additional opportunities for recreational halibut fishing would increase stability and certainty. Through this program, approved recreational harvesters will be able to fish until December 31st, even if the regular recreational halibut fishery under the Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence are closed.

How to get started

  1. Complete an application form.
    • This application form will contain the name and contact information of the prospective licence holder, and will allow us to better understand the interest in the experimental fishery, and the distribution of licence types.
    • Please select the application type that applies to you (individual harvester, lodge/charter operation or marina), print it, then complete and sign it. Then, submit it to us at
    • We will follow up with those named on the application form to discuss operational details of the program and to start the process for licence issuance.
  2. Experimental licence issuance
    • No fee, party-based licence (licence is associated with an individual or company, rather than a vessel).
    • Once the signed application is received, we will follow up with new applicants, then create an experimental licence.
    • The licence and conditions are provided to the licence holder. The condition of licence apply to the licence holder, vessel master(s), additional harvester(s) of the licence, and client(s) of the licence holder.
    • We will send a hardcopy logbook to the licence holder.
  3. Licence holder submits a temporary request for reallocation of quota.
    • An arrangement between the experimental licence holder and a commercial licence holder or broker is made through a market-based mechanism.
    • Once the licence has been issued, a request for temporary reallocation is submitted to us
    • This reallocation request will detail from which licence the quota is coming from and to which licence it is being transferred to (authorizing signatures are required for the licence the quota is coming from).
    • We will process the reallocation and once the quota has been transferred to the experimental licence a new amendment to the conditions will be created that indicates, in pounds, the amount of halibut that has been acquired by that licence.
    • Once you have an amendment with quota, fishing can begin.

Monitoring requirements

Management measures

Who can apply for a licence?
  • Individual recreational harvesters
  • Lodges, charters, guides
  • Marinas
  • Non-residents are not eligible to hold an experimental licence, but may fish under the authority of a licence held by a resident individual harvester, lodge, charter, guide, marina, etc.
  • If a business entity applies for a licence, only one licence is required per business.
  • A copy of the conditions of licence, including a current licence amendment with an original signature by the licence holder, must accompany every individual fishing under the authority of the licence.
When does the experimental recreational fishery start?
  • Licence issuance based on expressions of interest received will commence in March.
  • The experimental recreational halibut fishery will commence April 1 and close December 31.
What does this licence allow you to do?
  • Allows you to fish concurrently with your regular Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence to retain halibut in excess of the Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence provisions, which can be found in the BC Sport Fishing Guide.
  • Allows you to continue to fish (until December 31) even if the regular recreational fishery has closed.
What does this licence not allow you to do?
  • Not permitted to use other gear types; only angling gear is permitted
  • Not permitted to sell the fish caught under the experimental fishery
  • Not permitted to permanently acquire halibut quota
  • Does not permit the retention of non-halibut species beyond the limits of the Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence
What are the rules with respect to quota limits and transfers?
  • A licence must have at least 20 pounds on it to commence fishing.
  • No maximum amount of pounds
  • The minimum pounds permitted to be transferred at any time is 1 pound.
  • Quota may be transferred from:
    • Commercial/communal-commercial groundfish licence to an experimental recreational licence
    • Experimental recreational licence to an experimental recreational licence
    • Experimental recreational licence back to a commercial/communal-commercial groundfish licence
  • Each time a transfer occurs an updated amendment is provided to the licence holder with the amended quantities of quota, these updated amendments should be provided to any individual fishing under the authority of your licence.
  • All quota weights are net pounds. (head-off, dressed weight). One round pound = 0.75 net pounds
What happens if I catch more fish on a trip than I have quota for? Who can apply for a licence?
  • The reconciliation of quota can occur anytime throughout the year.  The licence must be reconciled by January 31, 2025.  Reconciliation means ensuring catch equals the quota on the licence.  
  • Refer to the in-season checklist to see what is required of licence holders in terms of reporting catch and reconciling quota overages.
What is the minimum amount of quota required to be on a licence to participate in the Experimental Recreational Halibut Fishery? For 2024, in order to begin fishing under the authority of an experimental recreational licence, the minimum quota required on your licence is 20 pounds.
How do I find quota?
  • Approach a quota broker like IQMI:
  • Approach individual commercial groundfish licence holders. See a list of all licence holders.
  • Approach a fish processor (that deals with halibut)
  • Approach commercial representatives on the Halibut Advisory Board
  • Approach other participants in the experimental recreational fishery
Can I catch all my quota in one day? Yes and if you catch in excess of your quota, reconciliation can occur throughout the fishing season. Final reconciliation must occur by January 31, 2025.
Can I catch my halibut under the regular recreational fishery and then more under the quota fishery? Yes. Halibut caught first that are within the 2024 recreational size limits, will count against the regular Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence. Any halibut in excess would be attributed to the experimental recreational halibut licence.
What happens at the end of the year?
  • The licence applicant is responsible for the catch and quota on his/her licence.
  • If the licence holder, vessel master(s), client(s) of the licence holder or additional harvester(s) under the licence have caught in excess of the quota the licence holder has until January 31, 2025 to reconcile the licence.
  • If the licence holder has quota in excess of catch the licence holder is permitted to carryover up to 10% or 200 pounds (whichever is greater) of their uncaught halibut quota; this equivalent poundage will be added to the licence quota in the following year should the licence holder apply (and receive a licence) to participate in the fishery in the following season.
  • Any remaining quota can be reallocated to the commercial sector or to other experimental halibut licence holders before January 31, 2025, or will be forgone .
  • No overage provision is provided at this time
  • Refer to the in-season checklist to see what is required of licence holders throughout and at the end of the fishing season.

Conditions of licence

What are the conditions of licence?
  • Details the amount of quota available on your licence
  • The areas permitted to be fished
  • Fishing gear permitted to be used
  • The persons permitted to harvest fish under the authority of the licence
    • The licence may be issued to an individual or business; however the conditions will permit the harvest of fish by those guided by a vessel master, onboard an authorized vessel, or fishing in the presence of the licence holder.
  • Records that the licence holder, vessel master or client of the licence holder shall keep
    • Mandatory paper logbook submission
    • Mandatory copies of logbook page submissions in-season
  • Timeframe within which catch records must be submitted
  • Disclosure of catch to DFO officials or designate when asked (this is to address the possible testing of a dockside monitoring program)
Do I need a regular Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence as well? Yes. The regular 2024-2025 Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence will allow for the retention of non-halibut species, as well as the maximum daily size and possession of halibut within the regular recreational fishery.
Do I have to physically differentiate between the halibut from the standard recreational fishery and the experimental recreational halibut fishery? Yes. Any halibut caught and retained under the authority of this licence must remove the upper and lower lobes of the caudal (tail) fin immediately after they are hauled on board. Please refer to the in-season checklist to see what is required of licence holders in terms of responsibilities while on the water.
What happens if I am stopped by an enforcement officer on the water?
  • Your regular Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence must reflect all halibut catch taken under the authority of the regular recreational fishery.
  • If you are in possession of more than the permitted number and sizes of halibut as per the Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence, you must have proof of participation in the experimental recreational halibut fishery:
    • Licence conditions and amendment with original signature by the licence holder
    • Up-to-date records of halibut catch in your logbook
  • It is recommended that you follow the halibut packaging guidelines to ensure halibut are packaged in such a manner that the species, number, and length of the fish can be readily determined; halibut packaging guidelines can be found online.
What do I give my clients to show they are permitted to transport more than 2 halibut or halibut larger than the size limits?
  • Anyone transporting fish caught under the authority of this licence must be provided with a transport slip by the licence holder. The transport slip must detail the number of fish and weight of fish being transported. A template transport slip will be made available to licence holders.
  • It is recommended that you follow the halibut packaging guidelines to ensure halibut are packaged in such a manner that the species, number, and length of the fish can be readily determined; halibut packaging guidelines can be found on our website.
  • Refer to the in-season checklist to see what is required of licence holders in terms of having additional harvesters or clients fish under the authority of this licence.

Frequently asked questions

What is the purpose of the experimental halibut fishery and what is being tested? The experimental halibut fishery will test a market-based mechanism that allows an experimental licence holder to acquire additional halibut quota from the commercial sector to fish for recreational purposes, and to test enhanced catch monitoring of such a fishery.
How does this experimental fishery work?

In addition to the regular tidal water sport fishing licence, recreational harvesters can obtain an experimental licence, on a voluntary basis, that will allow the licence holder to lease halibut quota from commercial harvesters, thereby giving them certainty for business planning purposes. The additional quota associated with the experimental licence will allow individual recreational harvesters to fish beyond the current limits of a standard recreational license, up to the amount of additional quota acquired on the experimental licence. The experimental fishery will commence on April 1, 2024 and will be available until December 31, 2024.

The experimental licence will be subject to terms and conditions, which include enhanced monitoring requirements for participants. Through the implementation of this trial experimental fishery, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will work with stakeholders to set out the monitoring conditions.

How will recreational harvesters be able to access commercial quota? How will they be able to find commercial harvesters willing to sell quota?

We will work with participants in the experimental program to direct them to the appropriate information. Fisheries and Oceans Canada annually publishes a list of approximately 435 commercial halibut licence holders, including the person or company that holds the license and quota. In addition, quota brokers exist for groundfish fisheries that can assist recreational harvesters in accessing quota.

How much will it cost recreational harvesters to purchase additional quota? Will there be a limit on how much quota the recreational sector can purchase?

Recreational harvesters will have access to 15 per cent of the Canadian total allowable catch through the standard recreational fishery. There is no cost for the issuance of the experimental licence. The experimental licence will provide a market-based transfer mechanism for acquiring additional quota, operated through a willing buyer and willing seller arrangement. Transactions will occur directly between the buyer and seller, and costs associated with the additional quota would be based on market value and be paid for by the recreational experimental licence holder. We are responsible for tracking the transfer of quota from one licence to another through its quota management system.

Are you concerned about commercial licence holders leasing out their quota without actually fishing? In 2006, we implemented the Commercial Groundfish Integration Program, which required that all commercial groundfish harvesters be accountable for their target and incidental catch. The ability to transfer quota makes individual commercial groundfish harvesters responsible for all of their catch by transferring target and non-target quotas amongst themselves. This market-based transfer allows the catch of commercial groundfish species to remain within the prescribed conservation limits while also providing for an economically viable fishery. As such, the ability to self-adjust within the fishery is critical to ensuring its long-term sustainability. Furthermore, the transferability of quota allows for new entrants to actively participate in the fishery without the initial high investment costs associated with the purchase of a commercial halibut licence and quota.
How will the experimental fishery affect the standard recreational fishery? The experimental fishery is voluntary and will exist in addition to the standard recreational fishery. The experimental fishery will not affect the standard recreational fishery. We are responsible for ensuring that Canada stays within the domestic total allowable catch set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, and fisheries will be monitored in-season to ensure they remain within their respective allocations.
What will you do with the results of the experimental licence initiative? We will closely monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of various approaches being tested in this experimental fishery, including monitoring methods and transfer mechanisms—both of which will provide input into options for the long-term management of the fishery.
How do I apply for an experimental licence? Please visit the application forms page and select the version of the 2024 application form that is appropriate for you (individual harvester, lodge/charter operation, marina). Print this off, fill it out and sign it, then submit it to the Groundfish Management Unit (GMU) at The GMU will follow up accordingly to begin the process of licence issuance.
Will First Nations be affected by the new experimental recreational fishery? Will they be consulted about the long-term management of the Pacific halibut fishery?

The experimental recreational fishery will not affect First Nations access to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes, which will continue to be considered before the Canadian total allowable catch (as determined by the International Pacific Halibut Commission) is distributed between commercial and recreational harvesters.

Approximately 18 per cent of the commercial halibut total allowable catch allocation is designated to First Nations bands and tribal councils; this will also not be affected by the experimental recreational fishery. This allocation is made available to First Nations through the Allocation Transfer Program and the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative, two programs that are in place to achieve environmentally sustainable and economically viable commercial fisheries where First Nations' aspirations are supported. First Nations will be able to apply for an experimental recreational licence under the same terms and conditions that apply to other recreational users.

First Nations access

First Nations food, social and ceremonial access to the halibut resource is determined prior to the application of commercial and recreational allocations.

Contact us

If you have questions regarding the program please contact

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