Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Open Letter to ACA and other interested readers

The one fish limit should be seen as a wakeup call and a warning.

We are all so lucky that the TAC ( total allowable catch ) did not decrease. If it had, the one fish limit in the latter part of June would seem like a minor restriction. You want to fight the commercial fishers for more fish or a more fair division of fish or a greater say on issues etc. fine have at it, knowing all along that you are up against a deeply entrenched and connected group. They have been fishing halibut in the North Pacific since about 1910. Generations of them have set up international commissions and research groups covering all aspects of their fishery, most importantly the political aspects.

There are 2 major users of the fishery and we aren’t one of them. The 1st one that controls with the least amount of impact on themselves are the bottom draggers. Do you not think for one minute that if the longliners could have they would have got rid of the bottom trawl bycatch. Trawlers in Alaska bring in more dollar value of fish than any other fishery. Bycatch of halibut is just the cost of doing business. The next major group is the longliners. They will not give us a fish. They have more resources than we ever will. You are naive if you think you can gather up all the supposedly disenfranished sportfishers of the country and rally them behind you to rip more fish from the commercial fishers. Won’t happen. By all means waste your precious time and money on following Bruce Warner on his crusade against the evil commercial fishermen. Remember that the resource is fully utilized and that they feed vastly more people in the country than we do. They already have the moral high ground because they can say that they have restricted themselves to keep their fishery sustainable. We cannot say that. We cannot control our growth. It is all well and good to expound on the virtues of a Free For All lifestyle and how everyone has a god given right in this country to start and run any business they want. After all it must be written in the constitution somewhere blah,blah,blah.

While you are fighting that endless fight ( they will hobble the issue forever just like they did last time ) we will be seeing more restrictions placed on us.

You want more fish from them. Why would you want more fish? Suppose somehow after costly years of fighting we were able to get a million more pounds of fish for our area ( Cook Inlet). Do you think somehow the population of Cook Inlet fish would miraculously swell by a million pounds? We have been charter fishing Cook Inlet for 28 years and can definitely say we have near shore depletion. There is nowhere we can reach in a one day trip that even comes close to fishing like it was even 10 years ago. We are hammering these fish as hard as we can. More boats, more fishermen, better equipment, ½ day trips and overnight trips all contribute to the impact. The only fish safe from us are over 60 miles away. The only reason we haven’t gotten to them is we haven’t developed the technology to get there and back in one day and still make money at it. Already boats struggle to get a load of decent fish. Not all the boats all the time but all the boats some of the time. Everyday boats come back with less than a limit and small fish. Half day boats cannot even get a limit where massive schools of small fish used to live. The 50% allocation idea is laughable. The vast majority of halibut live so far offshore we will never get to them.

Immediate business must be taken care of. The moratorium date of December 9th 2005 must be carved in stone and not a minute lost. It must become the law this year or next at the latest. There can be no more charter permits allowed. Look around you and know that every new captain that gets onboard potentially cuts your income. That is not ok by me. This cannot be a wide open fishery anymore. If we cannot all come together to stop our growth then we deserve the restrictions that are going to be placed on us. I say stop the growth first then tackle those allocation issues that will take years to solve. We do not have years to solve the immediate problem.

The GHL allocation problem, the floating abundance problem, the LAMPs issues, the idea that a sport caught halibut is more valuable than a commercial one, the IFQ idea, the ABC idea, the tier idea, and the general unfairness of it all can be addressed in time. We do not have time to take the slow approach to the immediate problem.

This not a hobby fishery to us. I resent the part timer who takes the heart out of the summer then goes back to their other profession. That type of charter operator treats this as a hobby. Their hobby cuts into our living. The more of them there are the more restrictions are going to be placed on us. Is that what you want, a hobby fishery?

The health of the resource is of paramount importance. We must insure that our near shore fishery stays healthy. If we are not good stewards there will be closures of certain areas to protect the fish from us. Kachemak Bay will probably be first. It is conceivable that the Barren Islands could become a preserve.

Maybe we could not unite behind an IFQ proposal but somehow we need to unite to stop the runaway growth of our fleet or soon our businesses will not be viable.

Sean, Gerri, Ben and Ethan Martin

North Country Charters


mark said...

Couldn't have said it better myself, Sean ( maybe a touch more venom! ). Bruce Warner has been a small thorn in this industry's side since the Chamber letter fiasco - "Four bad fishing days a month" and all that tripe. Now, he is backing the new charters, I suppose, because they have room on their boats for him to make a commission. He is less relevant than ever. The real problem, tho, is that there always seems to be more new charters than old and they all feel it is an inalienable right to make a living sportfishing. Sean, I believe that the largest impediment to getting the I.F.Q. at this point is that the majority of the charters, the new guys, are afraid to show hypocricy and work in that vein. Perhaps if we allow these f-ing carpetbagging snake-oil salesmen a way to capitulate without overtly belying their stated beliefs, they will do what is best for them too - push, NOW, for moratorium and I.F.Q.. If they'll do this, I'll promise not to publicly ridicule, nor say "told you so" more than a few times.

Halibuthead said...

Sean and Mark, Both your comments were very well said. I have a few thoughts to add.

First and foremost the NPFMC set a date of 2000. The threat was dont come into the industry after that or you will not be included. After they voted 3 times on the Charterboat IFQ I felt no choice but to listen to them. I could have grown my business with a second boat as my friends could have as well. For the most part it wasnt the existing fleet that grew the industry by 35% it was new comers. This group represented what the Council described to us as "The Problem Area".

The NPFMC then contradicted themselves by turning around and rescinding the IFQ quoting the number of new entrants that would be left out as the reason???????

Meanwhile how many times have long term operators fished with 4 when they could have had 6. Or how many times have they not fished while one of the new comers running cheapo charters was running full with 6?

Then the New Comers/Problem Area go before the public and the NPFMC and call the long term operators who had worked within the system GREEDY! Well who is greedy here? The group that respected the councils decision and ran their business accordingly or the group of speculators wanting something for nothing? Seems clear to me.

Now the NPFMC wants to put a Moratorium through which incudes all those speculators. Basically rewarding them for cheating the system and disrespecting the Councils Order. And who is getting screwed again out of the chance to grow?

Now the ACA, made up mostly of new operators many of whom are the exact hypocrits that pointed the greed finger at us, wants to extend us an "olive branch" and side with them on this fight. Are they crazy? This whole thing makes me sick.

I have a proposal. Everyone in before 2000 is allowed to fish the same as they traditionally have. Meanwhile the new comers can have one fish a day. If we again go over the GHL they can suffer more restrictions. I know this would never happen but this would definately be fair.

I still say issue the IFQ and let the chips fall where they may.

On another note and speaking of Snake Oil Salesmen where the hell is Bob Penney? He was so pissed after the council went against his original wishes. What did he do? Kiss up to his buddy Ted Stevens, work his best friend (Rasmussen) onto the council, use the ACA like a dirty rag and get his wish of rescinding the IFQ. Now this has been accomplished he is no where to be seen. He won his fight. His interest in this was a personal vendetta not trying to help our industry. And, the ACA, gave him just what he wanted.

One thing for sure, I am looking foward to giving my testimony before the NPFMC in March. I will not hold back.

Rod Van Saun