Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Charter halibut catch-limit change rejected

DISPUTE: Anglers can keep 2 per day; solution to growing sport fleet remains to be found.

Charter boat anglers needn't worry this summer about being limited to keeping only one halibut per day instead of two, as international regulators proposed in January.

"We rejected that," said William Hogarth, director of the National Marine Fisheries Service, in an interview Tuesday in Anchorage.

The Seattle-based International Pacific Halibut Commission imposed a one-fish bag limit for charter boat anglers in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska. The measure, which would have applied during certain weeks this summer, was meant to slow the charter halibut catch, which has surged in recent years.

Commercial fishermen applauded the commission's action, but charter boat captains and their customers decried it, saying many people wouldn't pay $200 or more for a day's fishing if they could keep only one fish.

While the halibut commission is responsible for protecting the halibut stocks off the U.S. and Canadian coasts, its vote to cut the charter bag limit was subject to approval by the U.S. Commerce and State departments.

Both decided to reject the measure, said Hogarth, whose agency is part of the Commerce Department.

Federal officials feel a better way to settle the growing fish fight between commercial fishermen and charter boat operators is to hammer out solutions through the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The Anchorage-based council, with government, industry and other representatives from Alaska, Washington and Oregon, helps regulate fisheries off Alaska.

Council members already have wrestled for more than a decade over how to control the growing charter boat catches, which eat into the fish available for commercial harvest.

The commercial fishermen say it's not fair that they have to abide by catch limits when the charter boats don't. Charter boat captains counter that commercial fishermen are hogging the fish, taking more than 80 percent of the combined commercial and charter catch in Southeast and Southcentral each year.

Hogarth said he doesn't believe the catch by one sector -- the charter fleet -- should be allowed to grow unabated.

"I love halibut. The only way I get halibut is for the commercial guys to catch it and put it on the market. So when I'm in D.C. I go to Oceanaire (a restaurant) and I get some great, fresh Alaska halibut," he said. "I think there's a balancing act. ... I don't think you can say that one group gets to take all they want and the others don't."

He said in coming days, the National Marine Fisheries Service will come out with other alternatives to control the charter catch. One idea would be to allow charter anglers to keep two halibut only if the second one is a large or "trophy" fish. That's likely to limit the overall catch, as many anglers won't hook a big fish in a day's fishing.

The halibut stocks off Alaska are large and healthy, government biologists say. The problem is the competition for what fish are available.

Bob Ward, who captains a Homer charter boat, said Tuesday he was glad U.S. officials rejected the bag limit cut. But he said charter captains can't expect unlimited growth forever, and he said many are working hard on finding a permanent solution.

Among measures the North Pacific Council is considering is so-called limited entry for halibut charter boats. That would prevent more boats from entering the business.

Charter fleets in other parts of the country, such as the Gulf of Mexico, already have gone to limited entry, Hogarth said.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Communication is the catalyst for change.

What is to be made of all the information and insight being gathered and circulated lately. There seems to be more dialog and attention to the issues than ever before. One can assume that all the letter writing and stakeholder participation is having an effect. Everything from the Commissioner of Fish & Game, Denby Lloyd stating that he is not sure why he issued an EO to take our skipper fish to having a IPHC big shot actually talking to the public. These occurrences are not by accident, they are the result of communication.
As far as I am concerned its a necessary evil to have to pay for a lobbyist to do our communicating in Washington DC. although if that is what it takes I’m in. We just have to have a clear picture of what we are after from these folks. Are we fighting for a bigger piece of the TAC? Are we trying to get the recreational catch taken off the top as it is for bycatch (wastage)? What are our priorities? The argument can be made that the charter fleet is overcapitalized and is thereby qualified for a federal buyback program to take boats out of the fishery. Law suites? Are we after all the fish, half the fish, just enough fish or some ones head? A unified message would be a start.
I would like to see this moratorium get through the council and then work on doing away with the GHL. Recreational fisherman must not be required to buy IFQs from the commercials. What are your thoughts?
Lots of good stuff going on and being talked about. Keep up the good work! Post your opinions and comments. Talk On!
Ps. Anyone can make a comment by clicking (comments) If you are having trouble posting let me know @ I will help.

Fish council considers limited entry for halibut charter operators

rticle published on Thursday, February 15th, 2007
Mirror Writer
Halibut charter management remained a hot topic as the North Pacific Fishery Management Council moved toward clapping a lid on the number of halibut charter operators in areas 2C and 3A, in their February meeting that ended Tuesday.

The council approved the initial review draft of the moratorium analysis, which includes a preliminary preferred alternative.

The preferred alternative would implement a moratorium or limited entry into the charter halibut fisheries in areas 2C and 3A using a control date of Dec. 9, 2005.

“There will be a limited number of permits out there in the world after you implement this program,” council fisheries analyst Nicole Kimball said, noting the terms “moratorium” and “limited entry” refer to the same thing.

The council identified a preferred alternative to help the public get a sense of where the council is going with its final action, council plan coordinator Jane DiCosimo said.

Council staff is now developing the public review draft, the next version of the analysis that will be ready in early March.

“That is the version the council will look at in late March to take action on,” Kimball said.

The draft will be posted the week of March 12 on the council Web site for the public to view and comment on.

Kimball said it is typical for the council to add options or tweak the initial review draft, which often includes input from the public.

“It is definitely a changed analysis, not just rewording it, but analyzing different options,” she said.

“Mainly, the council got these ideas through public testimony at the council meeting. They hear where people are headed and what other things people want to look at. They are fairly receptive to that and they add in what they think is necessary,” Kimball said.

Before the council takes final action, it will hear public testimony again.

DiCosimo said there was a half day of public testimony on the halibut charter issue and estimated 25 to 30 people spoke, but as many as 100 testified on other issues.

“The meeting was in Portland, so not everybody could get down there,” she said.

The final action will take place at the March NPFMC meeting in Anchorage. Implementation would not occur until the 2009 fishing season.

“This is not as controversial an issue as other actions will be,” DiCosimo said. “There is a fair amount of support for a moratorium. This is not an allocation issue with the commercial sector, so it doesn’t bring those people in.

“The commercial guys don’t have too strong a feeling on how the limited entry program for the other sector should be decided. It’s not that big of an issue for the commercial side.”

Kodiak charterboat owner and operator Michael Ensley said a moratorium is a good idea, but it comes too late. He believes it should have gone into place the second time the council tried to restrict charter halibut harvest.

“This is the third time they’ve talked about a date,” Ensley said. “It’s good, but Kodiak really doesn’t need it. We’re lumped into Area 3A. It’s good for that reason. If they ever divide us up, then I really don’t like it for Kodiak.”

He said a moratorium gives local charterboat owners stability because Kodiak tourism is slow, but he is concerned restrictions could be extended to all sportfish species.

DiCosimo said the idea for a limited entry program came from the charter sector.

“It’s not seen as a tool that will restrict harvest. It is the first step in narrowing the field.

“It’s the next step after a limited entry program is selected that proposes to restrict harvest,” DiCosimo said.

That next step could be a type of permit endorsement that would limit the permit holder to a certain number of clients, or a set amount of fishing days.

“Or it may go completely to a quota share program like we had previously composed,” DiCosimo said.

“This is seen as an interim but necessary step to get to harvest restrictions,” she said.

The council and some commercial halibut fishermen believe harvest restrictions for the charter halibut fleet are necessary because of guideline harvest level overages during the past few years, higher in area 2C than Area 3A.

To address the issue, the council will look at another draft of the GHL analysis, which proposes eight possible management tools to restrict charter halibut harvest in area 2C.

An initial review will take place at the council’s March meeting with the final action in June. Implementation is planned for 2008.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission recently recommended a reduction in the Southeast and Southcentral Alaska charterboat halibut bag limit to one fish per day per angler for part of the summer.

The vote will take effect if approved by the U.S. secretary of Commerce.

“We couldn’t do it for ’07,” DiCosimo said. “The IPHC felt it could. It went forward with their recommended action for ’07 and it is now under secretarial consideration.”

The council has worked on this issue since the early 1990s.

“We have attempted three previous times to institute management measures that would restrict charter halibut harvest,” DiCosimo said.

In 2006, the council adopted a five-fish bag limit that would have been in place for 2007. The cost of implementing the program was found prohibitive, so the council rescinded it.

“That’s why there is nothing in place for ’07,” DiCosimo said. “The document that is coming back in March is a redo on the one that the council adopted in 2006.”

The council announced it will probably initiate an analysis for Area 3A.

“Every year we’re seeing the trends for charter halibut harvest increasing,” DiCosimo said.

She said Area 3A is already 10 percent over its GHL.

Monday, February 26, 2007

UFA Agenda

Fishermen unite to talk to lawmakers

KODIAK -- The United Fishermen of Alaska this week selected a slate of fish issues it will bring before Alaska lawmakers this year.

Topping the commercial-fishing group's list is support for restricting sport halibut charters by imposing quota shares on the industry, whose catches have skyrocketed in some regions.

"We feel that the sport charter halibut sector needs to pony up and sit at the table with us and take some responsibility for conservation and longer-term allocations," said outgoing UFA president Bobby Thorstenson Jr.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

IPHC director to be in Homer

IPHC Director Bruce Leaman at the Oceans and Islands Visitor Center from 2:00pm to 5:00pm on Saturday February 24th in an open forum for discussion on the recent IPHC 1 halibut bag limit reduction. If you have an issue or question this is your opportunity to get it aired.

Here's is a suggested list of questions you may want to use--add, delete or whatever anyone feels is appropiate.

1) What are the biological concerns in area 2C and area 3A?

2) During 2007, the CEY is scheduled to be exceeded in 6 out of 8 management areas, why?

3) The NPFMC is and was working a variety of measures to address charter anglers' harvests, if there is no biological concern, why did the IPHC take action?

4) Can we expect the IPHC to act independently in the future, regardless of ongoing NPFMC proceedings?

5) In the past, area 2C had overages that far exceeded 3A's projected 8-9% overage for 2006, why didn't the IPHC take action in 2C during previous years?

6) How is the action in 3A justified?

7) Do you feel it is best to use the GHL numbers or ADF&G projected catch figures in calculating the CEY for future harvest levels?

8) Concerning the GHL and past overages, was the GHL number used in past years in calculating the CEY or were the ADF&G projected catch figures used? If the IPHC changed how it calculated the CEY just this year, why? If the IPHC didn't change methods of calculation, why didn't the IPHC take action in previous years when the GHL's were exceeded?

9) Do you feel it is "more appropiate" for the IPHC to handle these issues, or do you think it should be handled by the NPFMC?

10) Do you feel the NPFMC's process is broken?

11) What do you think the economic consequences to coastal communities are because of the IPHC decision?

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Revised as of February 9, 2007
Problem Statement. The Pacific halibut resource is fully utilized and harvest by the charter sector is demonstrating steady growth. To provide long term stability of the charter sector and lessen the need for regulatory adjustments, which destabilize the sector, the Council is embarking on development of a new management framework. In the interim, to address allocation issues between the charter and commercial sectors, the former is operating under a guideline harvest level (GHL). Harvest data since 2004 indicate that the GHLs in Area 2C have been exceeded and are near levels established for Area 3A. This has resulted in a renewed effort to find a long-term solution. To that end, the Council formed a stakeholder committee of affected charter and commercial user groups to consider management options and formulate
recommendations for Council consideration in developing a management plan for the charter sector. Some of the options previously considered include limiting entry or awarding quota share based on past participation in the fishery. To address the potential against the rush of new entrants into the charter fishery, the Council is considering establishing a moratorium on the charter sector. The moratorium is to provide an interim measure of stability in the guided sport halibut sector during the step-wise process toward a long-term solution. In doing so, however, the Council is also concerned with maintaining access to the halibut charter fishery by small, rural, coastal communities. To address this, the Council is considering establishing a separate program to allow these communities to enter the halibut charter fishery.

ALTERNATIVE 1. No action

ALTERNATIVE 2. Implement a moratorium on entry into the charter halibut fisheries in Areas 2C and 3A using a control date of December 9, 2005 (Council preliminary preferred alternative*).

Features of the proposed moratorium (limited entry) program:

Issue 1
. Permits may be held by U.S. citizens or U.S. businesses with 75 percent U.S. ownership of the business. Businesses may receive multiple permits due to charter halibut activity by vessels reported by the businesses in ADF&G logbooks. Initial permit recipients may be “grandfathered” below the U.S. ownership level and above proposed use caps until any change in ownership of the business occurs.

Issue 2. Permit would be designated for Area 2C and/or Area 3A. If a business owner qualifies for a permit in both areas based on the history from a single vessel, he would be issued a separate permit for both areas. Only one permit could be used on any given trip.

Issue 3.
Permit would be issued to an ADF&G licensed fishing guide business owner.

Issue 4.
Permit applicant would be required to sign an affidavit attesting that all legal requirements were met.
The Council’s preliminary preferred alternative (selected in February 2007) includes Issues 1 – 12.
If there are options identified under an issue, those that are part of the Council’s preliminary preferred alternative are marked with an asterisk (*).

Issue 5. Transfers of permits (permanent) would be allowed up to use caps.
Suboption 1: Prohibit transfers of issued permits for individual vessels that qualified at trip levels less than 10, 15, or 20 trips as reported in the ADF&G logbook.

Issue 6. Leasing of permits would not be allowed.

Issue 7.
Permit Endorsement for Number of Clients on Board
*Highest number on any trip in 2004 or 2005, but not less than 4.
*Suboption 1: Area 2C: cap maximum endorsements at 6, 8*, 10, or 15
Area 3A: cap maximum endorsements at 10, 15, 20*, or 25
*Suboption 2: Permit holders can be issued a permit endorsement for the number of clients on board equal to the highest number on any trip in 2004 or 2005. Permits above the cap are grandfathered at that level until a permanent transfer of the permit occurs; the permit is then subject to the cap on client endorsements in Suboption 1.

Issue 8.
Permits may be stacked up to use caps.

Issue 9. Evidence of participation is ADF&G saltwater logbook entry with bottomfish statistical
area, rods, or boat hours.

Issue 10.
Qualification period

*Option 10.1: Each licensed guide business owner(s) who reported a minimum of 1, 5, 10*, 15*, or 20 bottomfish logbook trips during 2004 or 2005 and year prior to implementation would be issued a permit(s) based on the number of trips summed for all vessels in his best year of the qualification period, unless an unavoidable circumstance occurred. A business would be limited to the number of permits equal to the highest number of vessels used in any one year during the qualifying period. Example: a business owner operated 3 vessels with 6, 10, and 8 trips, respectively (summed trips = 24) in his best year. He would be issued 1 permit under a 20 trip minimum (24/20 = 1); 2 permits under a 10 trip minimum (24/10 = 2); or 3 permits under a 5 trip minimum (24/5 = 4, but the maximum number of vessels in that year is 3).
Halibut charter permit holders may only use their permit onboard a vessel that is identified on an ADF&G saltwater logbook assigned to the person holding the permit. If the permit holder wishes to use the permit on a different vessel, they must obtain an ADF&G logbook for the new vessel before the permit may be used on that vessel. The permit number must be recorded on the logbook for each trip.

A permanent transfer is defined as either a transfer of the permit through NMFS RAM Division to an unrelated entity or when persons are added to an existing entity. Removing a person from a corporation or partnership would not be considered a permanent transfer.

A business can use, for example, two licenses (each endorsed for 6 clients) on one vessel.

“Year prior to implementation” could also mean two years prior to implementation, depending on the starting date of the application period for permits; e.g., the threshold would also need to be met in either 2007 or 2008, for implementation in 2009.

Acceptable circumstances will be adjudicated on a case by case basis through the National Marine Fisheries Appeals Division, but includes medical emergencies, military exemptions, constructive losses. An individual who was assigned to active military duty during 2004 or 2005 and who qualifies as “active ” during the year prior to implementation7 and who demonstrated an intent to participate in the charter fishery in Area 2C or 3A.(prior to the qualifying period) shall be eligible for a moratorium permit.

Option 10.2:
Each licensed guide business owner(s) who reported a minimum of 1, 5, 10, 15, or 20 bottomfish logbook trips during 2004 or 2005 and year prior to implementation would be issued a permit(s) for each vessel based on the number of trips in his best year during the qualification period, unless an unavoidable circumstance occurred. Trips by vessels operated by a licensed guide business owner that do not individually meet qualification criteria may be combined to meet the criteria. A business would be limited to the number of permits equal to the highest number of vessels used in any one year during the qualifying period.
Example: Under a 5 trip threshold, a vessel with 10 trips generates 1 permit; second and third vessels with 3 trips each earn 1 permit by combining their trips.

Issue 11.
Use caps, with grandfather provision. The AFA 10% ownership rule for affiliation will be applied to determine the number of permits associated with an entity under the use cap.
Option 1. 1 permit
*Option 2. 5 permits
Option 3. 10 permits

Issue 12. Community provisions for Area 2C and 3A communities previously identified under
GOA FMP Amendment 66
A Community Quota Entity (CQE), representing a community in which [5 or fewer or *10 or
fewer] active14 charter businesses terminated trips in the community in each of the years 2004 and 2005 may request limited entry permits.
Area 2C – use cap of 3, 4*, 5*, or 7 requested permits per eligible community.
Area 3A – use cap of 4*, 5*, 7*, 10*, or 15 requested permits per eligible community.
Overall use caps for CQEs (different use caps may be selected for CQEs representing
communities in Area 2C and 3A):

Option 1: 1, 3, or 5 times those selected for permits holders under Issue 11.
Option 2: 2 times those selected for the CQE requested permit use cap for each area.
*Provisions for CQE requested permits:
• Designated for the area in which the community represented by the CQE is located
• Endorsed for 6 clients
• Not allowed to be sold (i.e., transferred)
• Under reporting requirements, the CQE must identify the recipient of the permit prior to
• The requested CQE permit must be used in the community represented by the CQE (the
trip must originate or terminate in the CQE community).

A business whose permit is endorsed in excess of the use cap maintains that exemption for those permits that remain in its control after other permits are sold, but those sold permits lose that grandfather status in perpetuity. Grandfathered permits that are sold in total when a business owner sells his entire business/fleet maintain that grandfathered status. Grandfathered status refers to permits, not to vessels.

Any entity in which 10 percent or more of the interest is owned or controlled by another individual or entity shall be considered to be the same entity as the other individual or entity.

“Active” is defined as it is under Issue 10 (e.g., either at least 1, 5, 10, 15, or 20 bottomfish trips).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

State looking at halibut charter limited entry.

The Alaska Division of Sport Fisheries is considering the option of a limited entry system for sport fishing guides and is looking for public comment.

On the ADFG website they have written this:

"The first step in this process would require that limited entry become part of the management "tool box" through legislative action. This is followed by the establishment of a Sport Fish Limited Entry commission or panel through which the details of a sport fish charter/guide "permit" would be outlined. Details and the criteria of a limited entry program may be managed by ADF&G, CFEC or a newly established Sport Fish Entry commission.

ADF&G has established a Limited Entry Task Force represented by both freshwater and saltwater guides from around the state. This group is tasked with working as liaisons between ADF&G and the industry. In an early December meeting, the task force agreed that ADF&G should have limited entry as a management tool and would further assist in drafting the legislative language that would be introduced to the legislature in 2007."

You can read the entire special issue page here >>>

Read the individual article on Alaska Fishing News...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Lest we forget with who we are dealing, a new guy invited himself into my house the other day and got a cell phone call for a booking he couldn't handle. So, while picking his nose and finding things to touch, he gave the potential client a list of charters and, of course, I was not amongst them. The client mentioned Bob's Trophy and Bob of A-Ward. Those notions were dispatched and thrown out of view like twenty-five pound mountain milkers in a four pat blow.
These guys are networking and doing everything they can to keep passengers away from the "old guard". Please remember this when one brings lattes or a fillet to your office to try and buy clients. They have, and will, throw us under the bus as quickly as they will Jack Montgomery and his two-a-days... and he's one of them!
If you refer one client to these hyenas, you are empowering them to come back later and steal your kill.

Thursday, February 8, 2007


In 1980 the Homer Charter Association was organized as a trade association to represent the local interests of the charter industry. Our mission statement reads:
The purpose of the organization shall be to enable persons or businesses to speak with a unified voice.
To promote the safety and operating conditions as they affect the charter industry for the best interests of both operators and their clients.
To seek means to enhance the industry's interests of the members--with an eye to diversification and lengthening the operating season.
To promote harmony and cooperation between the charter, commercial, and sportfishing interests in the Homer area.
In 1993 we began our involvement in the current management and allocation issue at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council with charter representatives across the state meeting and learning what our needs and our fears were. In 1994 we asked for and were denied a moratorium on new entry by the NPFMC and then again in 1995 by the State of Alaska in a Local Area Management Plan (LAMP) for Cook Inlet. In 1997 the NPFMC assigned us a maximum limit of fish called the Guideline Harvest Level which was 25% more than our average catch to provide some growth, to be shared by all operators within each area, Southeast and Southcentral Alaska. Absent a moratorium the charter fleet continued to grow along with our catch until a few years back we exceeded that limit. We have learned from every past allocation dispute that forcing too many boats to fish for too few fish would result in economic instability within the industry, we saw the need to restrict new entry or give us a way to increase the number of fish we needed. Even though the GHL was originally more fish than we had ever taken before, we soon exceeded it, which in turn removed our over-harvest from the commercial allocation. We were now causing instability in the commercial fleet as well.
In 2000 we began exploring how the charter industry could mesh with the commercial fishery and provide a way to increase the charter amount while compensating the commercial fleet for their losses.
In December 2000 our plan to include halibut charters in the existing commercial IFQ plan was introduced to the council by the members of the existing charter industry, was passed 8 to 3, contested by the state, and re-approved again in October 6 to 5 by the NPFMC. We were told this plan would be “fast tracked” for submission and approval, this was in 2001. In 2005 the NPFMC and the National Marines Fisheries Service (NMFS) finally had the plan ready for approval.
Due to the 4 year delay, and not having a moratorium on new entry, we ended up with qualifying criteria requirements the newer charters did not meet. This problem was brought to the public’s attention in 2005, if these new operators would have to purchase enough fish to operate at their current levels they may be out of business, some after 4 years of building up their charter service, so they took their complaint to the NPFMC and the council decided to begin the management development all over again. We may be 4 or 5 years away from having another shot at controlling our industry. The current proposed moratorium will be a long over-due step in stabilizing the charter industry but it in itself will not be enough.
So now we have charters who want an end to this 13 year long fight while there is still economic viability and we have charters who do not support restrictions and want 50% of the fish to be taken from the commercial fleet, and some are beginning to bring a lawsuit to force the allocation issue into the courts.
The Homer Charter Association feels the federal government process of exploring, developing, debating, deciding, and then following through with the preferred plan has terribly failed the charter industry and they should be held responsible. The indecision by the NPFMC, the state obstructing the NPFMC process, the NMFS not doing their job for 4 years should not cost the charters, or the commercial fishermen.
HCA and many other charters have divided positions on the next step that needs to be taken, but we all find the 1 fish bag limit reduction for late June to be a poisoned pill for all of us. HCA has prevailed against this idea several times at the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) and at the NPFMC back before we had a GHL but what is our argument for going over a GHL? Whether we liked how we got the GHL or not, it is the limit we now have. We may defeat the 1 fish proposal in this area this year because we are only 10% above our GHL, but in Southeast they are 46% over and the health of the resource is in jeopardy, so what can be done? What happens next year?
As we alert our customers of the proposed bag limit reduction are we digging a hole that may take several years to get out of? As word gets out some will not come to Alaska to fish, how many years will it take for us to have a stable season to offer?
The Homer Charter Association saw what was coming and in their 13 years of involvement prevented this draconian type of action but now we must all pay. We know the original plan would have caused financial requirements that would increase the cost of charter fishing, but at least it was not going to DOUBLE the cost of charter fishing as the 1 fish bag limit will do for late June anglers.
HCA is committed to continue working within the council process to facilitate the long term solution. In the near time the moratorium will provide stabilization for Homer area businesses that depend on the halibut resource as well as the tourist resource.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Halibut lobby working overtime

Halibut lobby working overtime

Daily News Staff Writer
Commercial fishermen and charter operators who target halibut in Alaska have been lobbying federal decision-makers heavily since a U.S.-Canada commission recommended to reduce charter anglers' bag limits for halibut during portions of 2007 in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska.

The final say regarding the International Pacific Halibut Commission's Jan. 19 recommendation rests with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, with the concurrence of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez.

The IPHC — which cited charter halibut catches that have exceeded guideline harvest levels in recent years — is recommending cutting charter bag limits from two halibut to one halibut between June 15 and July 31 in Southeast Alaska, and from June 15 to June 30 in Southcentral Alaska.

Commercial halibut fishermen support the recommendation and are urging its approval.

Without the IPHC recommendation, they say, efforts to curb charter catches through the North Pacific Fishery Management Council process aren't likely to produce regulations until the 2008 season at the earliest.

Commercial fishermen's groups say the commission acted within its authority and has a responsibility to reduce charter catches now.

"IPHC was the only agency able to put in place effective management measures to slow the charter harvests for the 2007 season," wrote Kathy Hansen, executive director of the commercial-fishery oriented Southeast Alaska Fishermen's Alliance, in a Jan. 26 letter to Rice.

But charter operators say the IPHC exceeded its authority by getting into allocation issues. They say the recommendation is unfair, discriminates against charter anglers, and will damage local economies.

"The proposal, if adopted, will have devastating effects on charter fishing businesses in Alaska and the local communities that depend on them," wrote William P. Horn, an attorney representing the Alaska Sportfishing Alliance, in a Feb. 1 letter to Gutierrez.

A decision is expected soon. The International Pacific Halibut Commission expects to forward its formal recommendations — which also include the proposed commercial fishery quotas for 2007 — to the departments of State and Commerce in the next week or so. It's anticipated that Rice will take action before the proposed March 10 start date of the commercial fisheries.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is meeting in Portland, Ore., this week. The charter halibut issues are on the council's agenda Wednesday, but council Executive Director Chris Oliver wasn't expecting the council to take action to restrict charter catches in 2007.

The council is on a path toward regulatory changes for the 2008 season, Oliver said last week.

"I don't think the (IPHC) action necessarily changes our course of action," he said.

The IPHC recommendation represents the latest flash point in a lengthening squabble over halibut allocation in Alaska, with commercial fishermen concerned that growing charter catches are taking fish away from commercial quotas.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has devoted much time to the halibut charter issue in recent years.

In general, there's a division of labor in managing halibut stocks and harvests along the U.S. west coast.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission, which was established in 1923 by the U.S. and Canadian governments, is charged with the research and management of halibut stocks in U.S. and Canadian waters. Every year, its recommendations regarding total allowable catches and fishing seasons are sent to the respective governments for consideration and approval.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, one of eight councils established by the U.S. federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Act, focuses only specific fisheries within U.S. waters off the Alaska coast. For halibut, the council is responsible for allocation and limited entry decisions.

In 2000, the council set fixed guideline harvest levels for charter halibut catches in Areas 2C (Southeast Alaska) and 3A (Southcentral). The charter guideline harvest levels — which are non-binding — are set at 1.432 million pounds in Area 2C; and 3.65 million pounds in Area 3A.

Charter catches in Area 2C stayed below the GHL until 2004, when the catch of 1.75 million pounds was 22 percent over the guideline. In 2006, the catch was estimated at 2.113 million pounds, about 47 percent over the guideline harvest level.

Up in Area 3A, the charter catch was 1 percent over the GHL in 2004, and about 9 percent above it in 2006.

Commercial catches "float" up and down, based mostly on the commission's estimates of the halibut stock' health for that particular year. The commercial sector quotas are "hard" caps — the commercial fisheries are mananged to not exceed the annual total allowable catch.

The commercial catch limits in Area 2C between 2000 and 2005 ranged between 8.4 million pounds and 10.93 million pounds. In 2006, the commercial quota was 10.63 million pounds.

Commercial fishing groups note that overages in the charter catch in one year are deducted from the next year's overall harvestable catch, which costs the commercial sector "millions of dollars in ex-vessel value," according to the Halibut Coalition, a groups of commercial fishermen.

"When they go over their GHL, it's maybe not exactly a one-to-one ratio, but there's a direct correlation in the following year that the commercial catch is reduced by," said Hansen.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has been working on a range of proposals to slow the charter catch, including reduced bag limits, capping charter vessels to one trip per day and trophy-size catch requirements, among others. The apparent earliest time that these regulations could take effect is 2008.

The council also is studying the establishment of a limited-entry system for charter operators, an issue that has sharply divided the charter fleets in the past.

Given that 2008 is likely the earliest time that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council could deliver regulations to slow the charter catch, the International Pacific Halibut Commission process began considering its own options.

"The lack of adherence to the recreational catch limits set by the two governments in Areas 2B, 2C, and 3A in turn compromises adherence to catch limits established by the Commission and accepted by the two governments," stated the commission's 2007 "Blue Book" report. "Absent action from the two governments to restrain recreational catch within these limits, the commission must act to restrain removals within its adopted catch limits."

Commission staff recommended the charter bag limit reductions. (The Halibut Coalition submitted a late proposal in November to the commission seeking cuts in the charter bag limits. Commission Executive Director Bruce Leaman said commission staff were already studying the issue before the Halibut Coalition proposal arrived.)

When the commission met in January, it approved the above-mentioned bag limits, in addition to lowering the commercial quota in Area 2C to 8.51 million pounds, based largely on stock assessment issues.

Leaman said the commission members made the decision to reduce the bag limits "very reluctantly." The issues cited were the "magnitude of the charter overages and "the belief that such overharvesting puts at risk the achievement of IPHC management goals for the halibut stock."

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council already had made the allocation decision when it set the guideline harvest levels, but it hadn't developed the mechanisms for complying with the GHLs, said Leaman. The International Pacific Halibut Commission's action was taken in regard to the compliance issue, he said.

The charter fleets immediately viewed the commission's decision as an allocative issue.

Horn's letter on behalf of the Alaska Sportfishing Alliance cites international convention and U.S. law as placing allocations decision squarely in the realm of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

"The IPHC's proposal here, however, is a blatant attempt to affect allocation issues, and in doing so, subvert public involvement," Horn wrote. "The IPHC's recommendation is beyond its authority and should not be sustained by the U.S. agencies."

Donna Bondioli, executive administrator of the Homer-based Alaska Charter Association, said one of her group's concerns was that the commercial allowable catch for Area 3A was raised by 1 million pounds while the charter bag limits were being imposed in the same area.

"The decision by the IPHC was not a biological concern, it was strictly an allocation," Bondioli said.

Hansen, who owns individual quota shares for the commercial halibut fishery in Area 2C, noted that the commercial harvest quota in Southeast Alaska dropped by about 2 million pounds for 2007.

"So it's not as if the commercial fleet is getting more fish out of this scenario," Hansen said. "Everybody is losing something."

Commercial groups also counter that the International Pacific Halibut Commission has the authority to set and modify bag limits. The Halibut Coalition notes that the current recreational bag limits were set by the commission in 1975.

While the debate over whether the commission has the authority to set charter bag limits continues, Sen. Ted Stevens has issued a statement about his "concerns" regarding the commission's decision.

"The International Pacific Halibut Commission does not have the same level of public comment and analysis as our North Pacific Fishery Management Council," Stevens said. "I do understand that we have to be careful about maintaining a healthy halibut population but this should be done through an open process."

Stevens said he supports further analysis of the halibut harvest and input from the commercial and recreational sectors.

"This ruling can have an enormous impact on the economy and cannot be dealt with by an arbitrary decision," Stevens said.

The fear of economic disruption figures largely in the charter and travel industries' reaction to the commission recommendation.

In a Feb. 2 letter to Rice, Alaska Travel Industry Association President Ron Peck wrote that the IPHC actions raise concern about the future economic viability of charter halibut fisheries in the state.

"And today, ATIA seeks your assistance in avoiding an economic catastrophe in small coastal communities based on IPHC actions," Peck wrote.

In Ketchikan, Darrell Welk of Alaskan Fishing Adventures said he's heard from a Juneau-based charter operator who's already lost $12,000 in bookings.

"I don't think there's a whole lot of thought going into this, about what this could do to the local economies," Welk said.

The six-week bag limit reduction in Southeast Alaska runs right through the prime of the charter season, according Welk and other charter representatives, who are quick to add that reducing the bag limits for charter/guided anglers discriminates against sport anglers who don't have their own boats.

Both sides use further information — including the relative value of charter and commercial-caught fish and the number of Alaska participants involved with the each industry — to bolster their arguments in the debate that's similar in some ways to the long-running king salmon allocation fights in Southeast Alaska.

As the commission's Leaman observed, "This is obviously a very emotional issue for lot of people."

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Dear KPTMC Members,

As voted on at the January 2nd, 2007 Borough Assembly meeting, the “per person per day” ordinance will go into effect on April 1st, 2007. This ordinance will change the way businesses who sell recreational packages and services (such as guided fishing and sightseeing) are required to charge their customers tax. They will now be required to charge each person participating each day the activity takes place. For example: A group of four who book a fishing package for 3 days at $250 per person, per day for a total package cost of $3000 currently pays $10 in borough tax, 2% of the $500 tax cap. The same tax calculated under the new ordinance would be $60, 2% of $250 for each person, each day. Please see a copy of the Borough notice below. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Kenai Peninsula Borough Tax Division at 714-2175 ext. 2175 or 1-800-478-4441. Or call us here at the office at 262-5992.

Halibut FMP

From: John Lepore <>
Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2007 13:05:11 -0900

This, as all issues, is a bit more complicated than we would like, but,
I will give you the scoop as I told it to the Workgroup and the Council.
In most situations, an Fishery Management Plan (FMP) is necessary to
manage a fishery. An FMP is the template for the use of management
authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). The Council needs to
develop an FMP to manage a species. However, in the case of halibut,
there is a separate law that provides management authority, i.e., the
Northern Pacific Halibut Act. This does not necessarily prevent the
development of an FMP for halibut, it just makes it unnecessary because
there is another law in place that allows management. So unlike most
other species, halibut can be managed without an FMP. Another
consideration has to do with the jurisdictional authority. Under the
MSA, management authority extends from 3 to 200 miles. Management
authority from 0 to 3 miles belongs to the respective states unless
preempted (a process that rarely occurs). If an FMP was developed for
halibut, it would only be able to management halibut from 3 to 200
miles, which would still leave 0 to 3 uncovered by the FMP, and the
respective states do not have the authority to manage halibut. So there
is a practical reason why an FMP has not been developed. An FMP would
not comprehensively cover halibut management, it would only cover from 3
to 200 miles and 0 to 3 miles would still be managed outside the FMP.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Right Plan

Due to the 4 year delay by the NPFMC and NMFS, causing the current dilemma we face, and the lack of council action to mitigate the damage the industry will face we feel the most fair and correct action would be to initiate a proposal for a government purchase of the required halibut quota in each area as needed to be added to the GHL’s to cover the 2007 and perhaps the 2008 charter catch with no reductions in bag limit or season length. This buy out of quota would be at the expense of the government due to their responsibility. The commercial fleet should not be burdened with having the government take quota from them, especially recognizing the many fully purchased commercial quota holdings, and the charter industry should not bear the burden when the council process failed to restrict the entry into the industry, or correcting the GHL to float with abundance and “Catch up” on the recent stock increases allocated through the IFQ’s to the commercial fleet only. The charter industry is not capable of purchasing the needed quota as an industry or individually. This would provide a possible launch point for the charter industry’s inclusion into the existing IFQ program with no financial requirement for all current moratorium qualified operators.

This has been talked about quite a bit between those who want an end to the allocation battle and equality with their neighbors, commercial long line fishermen. If we can get a push-start we can do it.

Thursday, February 1, 2007


Many people in our industry think the Proposed Moratorium is the answer. Here are my thoughts.

I agree the moratorium is a step in the right direction. But, it has some serious flaws. The main one being there is no control over the number of trips a business will do. Or another way of looking at it the number of people they take or fish those anglers harvest. A business that ran 21 trips in 2006 has no restraint to prevent it from running 121 trips in 2007.

I assert there are more people that want to go fishing than the near shore resource can support. And I feel that number continues to grow. Therefore if they issue permits based on the Dec 2005 control date the number of people who will fish still will not be controlled. It will just be distributed among the existing businesses.

Of course the way it is written it appears if you ran under 20 trips you will be controlled. If they want to write this and issue permits based on 10 trip segments. For instance if I ran 94 trips I would be capped at 100 trips with 6 lines. Or 67 trips would be capped at 70. This would make sense.

The way this moratorium is proposed it allows plenty of room for growth for small time businesses that ran over 20 trips but not much room for growth for guys that are already running close to max. Once again this rewards the new comers allowing their catch to again push us over the GHL. This would once again screw the long term opperators.

Basically it all comes back to some kind of Quota. Whether is is number of trips on a permit, number of fishermen, or number of fish. It all comes back to being the only realistic way to manage the industry. This is why the IFQ was the original result of 8,000 public comments and 8 years of work by the industry and other interested parties. With their majority being new to the issue the ACA didnt understand this. They all jumped on the "IFQ IS BAD BANDWAGON".
They also slandered the long term operators with the word greed. It had nothing to do with greed. It was a hope that we could have an opportunity to run our businesses and serve our clients the way we traditionally had. We realized the potential reprecussions of the IFQ not passing. Now we are all suffering those.

We all know a huge problem with the GHL is there is no flexibility to float with the size of the biomass. While we have been at a rigid cap the commercial sector has been granted a number of increases in their catch allowance. Had the GHL in 3A been handled accordingly we would not be exceeding it right now. The Charterboat IFQ allowed that flexibility to float with abudence.

We also know and need to fight that a sport angler on a charter boat is just that, a sport angler. The seperating of sport anglers into two categories is wrong. Going to one fish for charter clients for periods of time is wrong. Whether a guy decides to pay for a captain to take him or to pay to buy a boat and go himself should not seperate what they are allowed to catch. Why should a charter client in South East fishing within a few miles of the Canadian Border be allowed once fish? Meanwhile the Canadian Charter Angler just a few miles away can take two. And, the private boat fishing right next to the American Chater can take two. It makes no sense.

To me it all comes back to some kind of IFQ program. A huge issue is recognition for longterm involvement. To be fair to all the IFQ or Permit or however it is issued must be graduated by time and level of involvement in the fishery. The new comers/speculators/problem area/guys doing a small number of trips, should not be awarded the same as a guy who has 7 plus years and is running close to max. The IFQ program is the only thing the Commercial Sector and the Majority of the Charter Industry has ever agreed on.

It is my feeling we need to move forward with the IFQ using a fair and equitable leveling plan.

Capt. Rod Van Saun