May 22, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Linda Behnken (907) 747-3400
Halibut Coalition response to the Halibut Charter Task Force Press Release of May 21, 2008
The Halibut Charter Task Force press release of May 21 fails to provide the most critical information relative to the pending reduction in the daily charter halibut bag limit for Southeast Alaska—the reduction is necessitated by reduced abundance of halibut in the Southeast area. The abundance of halibut in the area has dropped, as have catch rates in the stock assessment survey, the longline fishery, the charter fishery, the sport fishery, and the subsistence fishery. Because there is less halibut, all commercial sectors—longline and charter—have taken a quota reduction. In 2007, the Southeast longline quota was reduced by 20%; the charter Guideline Harvest Level (GHL) was not reduced—and the charter sector EXCEEDED its GHL by 36%. In 2008, the longline sector’s quota was cut by an additional 27%; and finally, the charter GHL, which is tied to abundance but in 15% stair steps, was reduced to protect stocks. The reduced bag limit is a management action to hold charter harvest to their GHL during this time of reduced abundance. These actions are necessary to conserve the resource. Yes, tourism is important to Southeast; yes some tourists enjoy catching a halibut as part of their Alaska experience, and under a one fish daily bag limit they still have this opportunity. But if the charter industry does not do its part to conserve the resource, there will be no halibut to catch in the future—and no one to blame but themselves.
The Southeast charter sector has exceeded its GHL every year since 2004. Every year the charter sector has objected to management actions that restrict their harvest. Since charter harvest is concentrated near towns, this over harvest has caused significant localized depletion of halibut and rockfish (taken as bycatch in the charter halibut fishery), making it increasingly difficult for resident subsistence and personal use fishermen to catch a fish to eat. The Southeast charter clientele is 97% non-resident. The Southeast longline fleet is 83% Alaskan. Is providing fish to tourists more important then taking care of the resource and supporting resident fishermen?
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) has spent 15 years developing a management plan for the charter sector through a very public, carefully analyzed process. Both the charter GHL and the pending management actions to restrict charter harvest to the GHL were developed by the NPFMC. The Council places resource conservation above economic hardship; for that reason Alaska’s marine fisheries are
thriving while stocks crash in other parts of the world. Alaska fishermen are steeped in a culture of conservation; it is time the charter industry joined the ranks.
For more information see NMFS/NPFMC analysis at: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/analyses/halibut/earirirfa_1107.pdf ).
Charter Halibut Task Force: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) estimates a 1-fish daily limit could result in up to a 30% reduction in angler demand in Area 2C—that’s 27,000 fewer people flying into Southeast Alaska coastal communities that rely heavily on sport fishing tourism. Even a 10 percent reduction could put a significant number of charter operators out of business.
RESPONSE: This is one possible outcome. However, prior action by the State of Alaska to limit non-resident guided anglers to one Chinook salmon in Southeast did not significantly harm the guided sport industry. In 2008, the overall treaty quota of Chinook salmon is being reduced 40% from 2007. All aspects of the independent tourism industry are expected to experience problems due to high fuel costs and the downturn in the national economy. Anyone who relies on naturally fluctuating resources like halibut and salmon, needs to factor this into their business model since conservation of the resource comes first and all sectors must share the conservation responsibility.
Charter Halibut Task Force: “ If Secretary Gutierrez decides on the 1-halibut limit, he would be reversing a decision he made only a year ago”..
RESPONSE: Last year the charter GHL was 1.42 million pounds, in 2008 the charter GHL is 0.931 million pounds. New management measures are necessary to hold the charter sector to their allocation in a declining stock condition. The one-fish daily bag limit is the only management measure that will hold the charter sector to their 2008 allocation.
Charter Halibut Task Force: Americans who cannot afford their own fishing boat, or do not feel safe fishing in Alaska without a licensed captain, whether due to age, limited experience, disabilities, or any other reason, will be limited to catching 50% less fish.
RESPONSE: Most of the public accesses halibut through the longline industry. The Southeast longline fishery provides an estimated 10 million meals per year, with virtually all those meals being consumed by Americans. Many people do not have the resources or inclination to travel to Alaska to catch halibut. It is important to these people that the longline quota be preserved since this preserves their access to the fish.
Charter Halibut Task Force: Charter fishing accounted for only 6.2 percent of the total halibut caught off the coast of Alaska over the last 10 years. By comparison, that is over 12 times less than the 75.8 percent that the commercial halibut fleet harvests, and less than half the 14.6 percent allocated for bycatch (halibut caught incidentally by commercial fleets while fishing for other fish).
Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association ♦ Cordova District Fishermen ♦ Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union ♦ Fishing Vessel Owners Association ♦ Halibut Association of North America ♦North Pacific Fisheries Association ♦ Petersburg Vessel Owners Association ♦ Sea Food Producers Cooperative ♦ Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Association ♦United Cook Inlet Driftnetters Association ♦ United Fishermen’s Marketing Association ♦ United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters Association
Monday, June 2, 2008
May 22, 2008