Pacific halibut are distributed throughout the continental shelf regions of the Bering Sea and the northern Pacific Ocean, from northern California, through Canadian waters, along the coast of Alaska, and into Russian territorial waters. For management purposes, the IPHC divided the range into smaller units known as statistical areas. These areas were used as convenient analytical units for tabulating and analyzing halibut catch data, biological and biometric data, and migration data from tagging experiments.
Traditionally, the statistical areas have only been used within the offices of the Commission; however, with increasing data sharing, there has been a growing interest in the definitions of the IPHC statistical areas.
The statistical areas are being made available in the ESRI Geographic Information System (GIS) shapefile format. Two sets of shapefiles are available: the Pacific Ocean statistical areas (GOA_Den) and the Bering Sea statistical areas (BS_Den). While the IPHC statistical areas are defined as polygons in the Mercator projection, the shapefiles contain a sufficient number of nodes to allow them to closely approximate the IPHC statistical area polygons in any projection.
Although the IPHC's jurisdiction includes all waters within Canada's and the United States' Exclusive Economic Zones, the Pacific Ocean shapefile only extends to approximately the 1,000 fathom depth contour, which should encompass all halibut fishing grounds.
Descriptions of the statistical areas can be found in IPHC Technical Report No. 49.