ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The rules for Alaska halibut charter fishing could be changing. This week, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is considering halting the growth of the industry by creating a moratorium on new halibut charter operators. For some, that's a great idea."Once we have the moratorium, we will define the fleet and we will have a more invested nature, or nature of the fleet," said Larry McQuarrie with Sportsman's Cove Lodge.Silver King Charters' Donald Westlund wants to see the changes made soon."We need to get this done, I'm getting too old," Westlund said.The council's advisory panel heard testimony today on a proposal that would give operators who fished in 2004 or 2005 a permit. Those who fished more than 20 days could sell the permit. Those who were under the 20-day mark, but still fished at least five days, are allowed to fish, but can't sell the permit. "Holders of restricted class permits will not be able to convert the value of their sizeable investments and retirement funding and will in fact be stuck with a valueless asset. It reminds me of Enron stock," said Rex Murphy of Winter King Charters.The proposal is in response to concerns that the charter catch in Southeast and Southcentral exceeded the guideline harvest level.For Whittier fisherman Rich West, it's potentially devastating. He started his business, Rich Adventures, last year."It's going to put me out of business. I won't qualify for any fishing rights for halibut if this moratorium goes through," West said.Those who oppose the moratorium would rather see charter operators get a bigger slice of the catch, likely at the expense of commercial fishermen. Charter companies are split. Some could leave the meeting hooking a valuable commodity, while others will be skunked. The advisory panel will make a recommendation to the full council, and the council is expected to hear more public testimony and make a decision later this week.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Charter operators say while they are pleased that the federal government did not accept and implement the proposal to cut the number of fish charter fishermen can bring home this summer, concerns about what the North Council will do instead continue to haunt the charter industry.
Commercial fishermen, however, counter that the growth of the charter fleet take has come out of their pockets, since the charter fleet has exceeded its harvest limits.
Homer’s charter fleet, one of the largest in the state, has been under the eye of the North Council for years as commercial fishermen have lobbied for some method of enforcing limits on the charter industry’s catch. A guideline harvest limit was put in place years ago, but the 3A fleet exceeded that harvest limit by 8.5 percent last year, and as yet, there are few methods in place for controlling the charter fleet’s take.
Earlier this winter, the Halibut Commission took the unusual move of imposing a one-fish bag limit for half of June in area 3A, and longer in Southeast Alaska, where the guideline harvest limit was exceeded by some 40 percent last year.
The Secretary of Commerce, however, did not approve the bag limit reduction.
Now the issue is volleyed back to the North Council, though given its lengthy public process for implementing regulations in the fishing industry, it would likely be several years from the date a decision was made before restrictions made it on the books.
The state of Alaska, which has little say in halibut regulation given that it is a federally managed fish, has restricted the number of fish captain and crew can take in both Southcentral and Southeast Alaska.
In addition, a laundry list of possible restrictions are at the council’s disposal, including the recently rejected one-fish-a-day limit. The council could also restrict the charter season, or the days in the week a charter could fish. An Individual Fish Quota Share program is still on the table, though a previous plan to get the charter fleet to join the IFQ program was rejected just prior to becoming law after a decade-long review process.
The North Council is likely to vote this week on a proposed moratorium on new charter boats until a decision is made. The moratorium, as it is currently written, would allow only those boats that were operating as of Dec. 9, 2005.
While charter fleet operators haven’t expressed much opposition to the moratorium, they have fought any restrictions on the charter industry that aren’t based on the total number of fish allowable for catch in any given year. While the commercial fleet’s allowable take rises and falls with the number of fish available for catch, the charter’s fleet’s allowable catch is capped. It can decrease if halibut stocks fall, but it can’t rise. This year, for example, the area 3A stocks expanded significantly, and the charter fleet’s allowable catch rose as a result. The charter fleet’s did not, and operators argue that if their allowable catch rose and fell with abundance at the same level the commercial sector’s did, the fleet would not have exceeded its limits in recent years.
The North Council is expected to take up the halibut charter issue on Thursday.
Posted by Flatfish at 7:11 PM
Sunday, March 25, 2007
"The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, Division of Sport Fish is evaluating the option of recommending the establishment of a sport fish guide limited entry program, and we would like to hear your comments."
Posted by Flatfish at 5:34 PM
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Proposed listing as species in danger would restrict B.C. haul to 15,000 tonnes
Larry Pynn, Vancouver SunPublished: Thursday, March 15, 2007
A diminutive shark that is despised at home and relished abroad as the fish with British chips is about to swim into the international political spotlight.
Long the scourge of sport and commercial fishermen in B.C.'s temperate coastal marine waters, the spiny dogfish is proposed for listing under the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species due to declining stocks in areas such as Europe.
SMALL SHARK, BIG CONSERVATION CONCERN
The spiny dogfish is coming under increasing fishing pressure in the world, prompting international calls for its protection through the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Dogfish are sometimes marketed as rock salmon and sold in Europe for British fish and chips and in Germany as smoked belly flaps. Tail and fins go to the Asian market for shark fin soup.
Size at maturity (length in cm)
75 NW Atlantic
93.5 NE Pacific
83 NE Atlantic
60 NW Atlantic
40-50 NW Atlantic
60+ NW Pacific
35 NW Atlantic
Average litter size: 1-20 pups 2-15 NW Atlantic 2-11 Mediterranean
Posted by Flatfish at 8:08 PM
(FAX No Later Than 21 MAR 2007).
NPFMC ANCHORAGE MEETING (25-31 MAR 07) ATTENDANCE IS CRITICAL!
This is a must: support letters to NPFMC must be received by 21 March 07 so try to FAX them (FAX: 907-271-2817). Show up to testify at the meetings on 28 & 29 & 30 March for North Council. NPFMC takes note of our letters and tallies them up for pro and con actions in the Federal Register. SO JUST DO IT!
Suggested Bullets to include in your 1-page Letters to NPFMC: (Assuming you agree with any or all)
1) Who you are and what your business is, and for how long and where at.
2) You support establishment of a Halibut Charter Moratorium, with a 9 Dec 05 Control Date, ASAP!
3) You support using a 5 day trip threshold (or 0, 10, 15, 20) for qualification for inclusion in the Moratorium, with a secondary 20 day trip threshold for moratorium permit transferability. Use of 2004 or 2005 LogBook data is preferred.
4) You want an initial allocation that represents a fair share and is adequate enough to allow for a permanent solution.
5) Fair Allocation numbers need to be developed.
6) NPFMC already has all the data they need to establish a Permanent Solution and don’t need to keep going forward for more data collection and studies.
7) You strongly oppose any allocation delegation to ADF&G because their potential in-season management decisions could devastate your business. Their best schedule if this happens is to let us know what restrictions we face on March 1 each year. How can we sell seats when we don’t know what we are selling?
8) You want NPFMC to move as rapidly as possible to a Halibut Charter Permanent Solution that allows for individual business choices. It’s already been 14 years in the process and you want it resolved!
Posted by Flatfish at 7:53 PM
Thursday, March 8, 2007
DRAFT by Ed Rasmuson
March 6, 2007
A proposed solution to the Halibut Charter Gross Harvest Level (GHL) issue
Many of us on the Council, as well as in the audience, have sat through endless testimony concerning the allocation of the halibut resources between the commercial fishermen and the charter halibut industry. Many different suggestions and scenarios have been put forward, but in my opinion, they just nibble around the basic problem which is a realistic allocation of this finite resource.
A brief history leading up to this problem is in order. In 1993, Individual Fish Quotas (IFQs) were given to the existing halibut fishermen. Between 1995 and 1999, a GHL for the growing charter fishermen was proposed and adopted. Since then, the charter fleet has pierced this GHL in both Southeast (Area 2C) and South Central (Area 3A). This has led to a very contentious allocation fight between both users of this resource.
We have to come to a final solution to this situation right away as it is only going to get worse with time.
In the next 10 to 15 years, almost all IFQs will have been bought by second generation fishermen which will greatly exacerbate the problem because every commercial fisherman will have a vested financial interest in their IFQ.
Therefore, I propose the following approach which certainly can be modified. I have no pride of authorship.
First, make the existing GHL reflective of the current halibut harvests. The existing GHL was set on 125% of the 1995-1999 average harvest. However, that level does not reflect either current halibut abundance or current CB usage by sport participants. Updating the CB GHL to reflect the 2001-2005 harvest would be 1.9 M lbs in Area 2C and 4.1 M lbs in Area 3A. This better reflects the current abundance and catch.
Additionally, consider setting the allocation as a formula – 125% of the average harvest of 2001-2005, translated to percentage (17% 2C and 15% 3A). This is another option.
Second, link the charter boat GHL to the halibut CEY. This would float the CB GHL with abundance, similar to the commercial fishery, and establish separate accountability for each sector. The question here – is it better to have the allocation as a fixed poundage allocation or floating with halibut abundance? I prefer the latter.
Third, consider establishing a mechanism to increase the allocation above the baseline set under step 1 to reflect future guided angler/tourist demand.
March 6, 2007
a) Option for CB operators to fund the purchase of commercial halibut QS (willing buyer/willing seller) and permanently add an annual equivalent (in IFQ pounds) to the CB allocation. For example, using a low interest loan to add QS equivalent to 200,000 pounds to the Area 3A allocation, and QS equivalent to 300,000 pounds to the Area 2C CB allocation, with CB operators retiring the debt. Either a commercial bank or the State of Alaska would loan $10M to purchase the needed quota share (0.5 million pounds at $20 a pound). The loan would be repaid from a “tax” on halibut pounds landed by the charter industry. The tax rate and payback period would be determined based on the duration of the loan. For example, a rate of 25 cents per pound would generate nearly $1.5 million annually from the CB catch. The note for this loan would be issued and held by the State of Alaska. The “taxes” would be collected by the State and used to repay the loan. The “tax” could be increased or decreased depending how much commercial QS is needed to generate surplus funds to buy additional quota when needed. This would allow for a compensated reallocation between the commercial and CB sectors.
b) Fund repayment of the loan (described above) used to purchase commercial
halibut QS through a $10/halibut angler as a tag on their fishing license. The increased quota would be released into the general CB allocation pool. There are 250,000 to 300,000 halibut fishers annually. A $10 marine sport fish/halibut tag would generate between $2.5 to $3.0 M/year.
A regulatory change would be needed to allow the purchase and holding of halibut QS and make it available to the charter sector. For the Council, an amendment to halibut regulations would be needed to allow for entity, other than a “qualified person” to purchase, hold and fish QS. Additionally, state legislation would be required to set up a state entity to collect and pay back the loan through the tax program.
The unused CB GHL QS pool could be sold to Commercial C and D size vessels for entry level access. If the QS is to remain within the CB GHL pool, a lease would be allowed if it was projected that the full amount of CB quota would not be used in a year. This would assure that halibut does not go unused and is available to the consumer. If the amount of QS had grown too large through purchases for the CB fleet to use, the excess would be sold to entry level fishers who are qualified to hold commercial halibut IFQ. This QS would be limited to C/D vessel size category.
What I am attempting to do is keep it simple. We basically need to drain the swamp, i.e. raise the GHL, through the purchase of commercial IFQ before we can address other problems such as area-wide depletion, new charter boat entrants, etc.
March 6, 2007
This proposed solution coupled with a moratorium for charter boat entrants would go a long way toward solving this contentious issue. This approach, obviously, would require a willing “seller” i.e. commercial fishermen, and a willing “buyer” the state of Alaska. If
we make the existing GHL reflective of the current harvests, then the amount of IFQs that need to be purchased would be a lot less.
As a long time Alaskan, we need to put this behind us. We need to immediately start the steps to a lasting solution to the problem before it gets even larger than it currently is. Finally, we on the NPFMC have a lot of other issues to contend with. We cannot spend an inordinate amount of time on this issue or we will be sadly neglecting other pressing issues that could have a very dynamic effect on our fishing industry.
Posted by Flatfish at 9:15 AM
NOAA Fisheries Service and the state Department of Fish and Game are working to develop
new management measures to help fishers avoid exceeding harvest levels.
NOAA Fisheries Service Alaska Region has initiated a rulemaking
process that will make changes in regulations for fishing for the charter halibut industry in southeast Alaska (area 2C).
This year, the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) recommended that the
United States impose bag limit reductions on the sport charter fleet operating in south central
(area 3A) and southeast Alaska. The IPHC recommendation came in response to the sport
charter fleet having exceeded guideline harvest levels established by the North Pacific Fishery
On March 1, 2007, the U.S. Department of State informed the IPHC that the United
States did not accept the IPHC recommendation that concerned the reduction of daily bag limits
for halibut caught from sport charter vessels in areas 2C and 3A. NOAA Fisheries Service is
concerned that with the rejection of restrictions on the charter halibut boat fishing,
recommended harvest limits will be exceeded.
"The specifics of the new restrictions will obviously need to be resolved through analysis
of available biological, catch, and effort data as well as evaluation of public comments obtained during the rule making process. It is our intention to have the new rule in effect by June 1,
2007,” said Doug Mecum, acting Alaska regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries.
"We believe it is appropriate to focus our efforts on analysis of alternatives for area 2C
that include a two halibut bag limit, with one of those halibut required to be of a certain size, for
example a 32inch minimum size, a trophy minimum size, or a slot limit," Mecum added.
All of the other recommendations proposed by the IPHC were accepted.
The Alaska region of NOAA Fisheries is working with the state Department of Fish and
Game to identify and discuss management measures other than a one fish
bag limit that could achieve halibut mortality reductions consistent with the goals of the IPHC recommendations. For example, in area 3A, a department of fish and game emergency order will restrict fishing for charter halibut skippers and crew in order to reduce halibut mortality by an amount comparable to the June 15 to June 30 one fish bag limit proposed by the IPHC. This action will eliminate the need for federal rule making for the area 3A charter fishery.
Because the skipper and crew restriction alone is not adequate to reduce charter halibut
mortality in area 2C to desired levels, NOAA Fisheries has initiated the separate regulatory
action to address this issue. In addition to halibut mortality savings, the objective of NOAA
Fisheries in implementing the substitute restrictions for area 2C are to minimize negative
impacts on the charter fishery and its sport fishing clients, the coastal communities that serve as
home ports for this fishery, and on fisheries for other species.
NOAA Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation’s living
marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation
of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat. To learn more about
NOAA Fisheries in Alaska, please visit our websites at www.fakr.noaa.gov or at
Posted by Flatfish at 8:20 AM
Saturday, March 3, 2007
Greetings from your advisory panel member, Tina McNamee
Here is a quick update for your information on what has been happening recently with regard to Alaskan charter halibut fishing.
2007 season halibut bag limits
The one-fish daily bag limit for guided halibut charters in Southeast and South Central Alaska which was recommended by the International Pacific Halibut Commission in January, has been rejected by congress and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
An emergency order (EO) will be issued for 2007 by NMFS which will implement other tools that will have a "comparable harvest reduction" while preserving the two daily bag limit as well as avoid any season closures. This EO will go through the regular NMFS public review process, and likely be conducted very soon.
At this time, these are the options that NMFS will be looking at for 2007 season:
Two fish daily bag limit with a minimum size limit of 32"
First fish at any size with a second trophy fish of 40, 45 or 50"
One fish at any size and one fish below 32"
No captain or crew retention
Limiting number of lines per paying customer
North Pacific Fishery Management Council Meeting - week of March 26, 2007 in Anchorage at the Hilton Hotel
Charter fishing topics on the agenda are as follows:
Final action on charter halibut moratorium
State/Federal management - review discussion paper
Review discussion paper on sport fish discard mortality
Initial review of analysis of GHL measures
Discussion on halibut allocations, action as necessary
Report on ADF&G logbook data (Science & Statistical Committee only)
If you have any comments to provide me regarding these agenda items, please feel free to email me at this address with the topic of your interest in the subject line. email@example.com
If you wish to provide your feedback for council members to consider, written comments must be received at the council office by 5PM on Wednesday, March 21. These must be submitted by mail or fax at 605 W 4th Ave., Suite 306, Anchorage, AK 99501 or FAX 907-271-2817. For more information, go to the council website: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/
Posted by Flatfish at 9:38 AM
Friday, March 2, 2007
We are in for a crazy ride at the council, Rasmusen has “His Bob Penny plan” and that is all he will talk about. He even called it his Bob Penny Plan. His first statement was “we will end ALL commercial leasing of quota”, no more sitting on the beach while others are out fishing your quota. (There is little leasing, only in A class shares which are “Catcher-Freezer shares, all other commercial QS holders must be onboard to fish their quota now). His plan is to get a LOAN for 20 to 30 million dollars, buy a million pounds from the commercial, and then to TAX us at the end of the year at $5.00 to 10.00 per person to pay the loan back. We will continue to do this until we “have more than enough” and then lease back to the commercials what we don’t need. “They can’t lease but we can?” The moratorium will go away and we will continue to grow. All inside waters will be sport only, and we will eventually own all the fish and the commercials will only get what we want to lease them. He would not let me talk about IFQ’s at all, not even talk about it. He was slamming his hands down on HIS Boardroom Table and got most animated, and I backed off and sat there and watched the show. He said both at our meeting and then yesterday in front of the Stakeholders the EXACT same thing, and then he said he would not sit and listen to 16 hours of “Charterboat CRAP” and he didn’t need this job and he would quit if it continues.......Sounds like Bob Penny all over again. He said he did not have the votes to raise the GHL....and if he couldn’t find the money from the state or feds he would put it up himself...sounds like a banker to me, looking for an interest opportunity for his bank? The Stakeholders went over the IFQ plan and they made some changes which I supported. We would look at establishing each boat’s catch rate from 2006 logbooks. Divide the number of halibut harvested by the number of anglers taken, this will give each boat his individual catch rate...2 or 1.5 or whatever it is per person. We next apply that rate to your logbooks from 1998, or 2000 through 2005, for each year based on your logged number of bottomfish anglers. Then you pick your best 3 years in that time period and average them out for your percentage of the total pool of charter boats in 3A. The next step is to apply that percentage to whatever the GHL, or allocation amount (soon to be debated and determined at the council) and you have your initial issue of quota. This same idea can be applied to the Angler day concept but after sitting there yesterday and listening to questions that I knew the answer to and the intent of, but I could not talk....which you know just about killed me, and being as how the general idea was moved though the committee with full approval I saw no need to stay.
Posted by Flatfish at 1:05 PM
Last month the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) launched an intense lobbying effort with the full force of its entire membership, including a letter writing campaign to Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. To further reinforce their efforts, RFA officials and Capt. Greg Sutter of the Alaska Charter Association met with high level Commerce and State Department officials to ensure that IPHC's proposal would be rejected. "Although the IPHC voted to cut our bag limit, the decision was still subject to the approval of our government", stated Capt. Greg Sutter.
As the result of RFA's lobbying efforts, both U.S. Commerce and State departments rejected the proposed regulation. Members of the sportfishing community knew that a one-fish bag limit would not only devastate RFA continues to support and defend the rights of
RFA continues to support and defend the rights of
Posted by Flatfish at 9:02 AM