'Let the big ones go'

Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2011

Have you ever been halibut fishing in Kachemak Bay or Cook Inlet? Have you ever competed in the Homer Halibut Derby? Have you ever caught a large halibut? These are the questions I ask you as readers. In Homer, there is a derby that is known as the "Homer Halibut Derby." People try to catch the biggest halibut they can and if they do the derby gives them money.

I am a freshman in high school and I am working on a project called "Caring for the Kenai." My project is about the issues of the halibut population in Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay. Something that people might not know is that most of the large halibut are the females, all halibut over 100 pounds are females. A large female halibut can produce as much as 4 million eggs each year. A 50-pound halibut can produce as much as half a million eggs each year. Any halibut over 60 pounds is between 8-18 years old, it will have much higher levels of mercury concentrated in this halibut than the good eating size of 10-40 pound halibut. This is due to the process of biological magnification, where fish eat other fish and this causes higher levels of mercury to concentrate in the flesh of the older fish. Big fish have more mercury for the simple reason big fish live longer. Everybody knows that the small halibut called chickens are the best eating. The small halibut also have low levels of mercury as compared to the large halibut. A halibut that is 180 pounds is between the ages of 12-23 years old. The older the halibut the more mercury it contains.

My hope is to educate people about the large halibut and how many eggs they produce and why we should follow my project motto "So Let the Big Ones Go." If people let the big ones go and we release 100 large female halibut for example that represents 400 million more eggs to grow into young halibut; this would be helpful for those that want to catch halibut to eat.

Austin Frederic

Kenai Central High School

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