Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The end of halibut sportfishing!


Halibut Political Front: Reducing the fleet and the bag limit

This year the Halibut Charter fleet was reduced by 30 - 40% through a federal permitting process. Now, even with this reduced number of charter boats, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council is trying to reduce the bag limit as well.

What is the Catch Sharing Plan (CSP)?:

The Catch Sharing Plan has been passed by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council and is headed to the Secretary of Commerce to be signed. If signed, it will reduce the allocation to guided sports fisherman by 30%. Our allowable harvest (Guideline Harvest Level-GHL) in 3A (Cook Inlet and Gulf of Alaska) right now is 3.65 million pounds. This will be cut by 900,000 lbs. Here’s a draft of the plan:

What that means to you, the Guided Sport fisherman:

Right now, you are allowed 2 fish per person per day of any size. If passed, right now, the limit would drop to 1 fish per person per day and could ultimately drop to 1 fish under 37 inches per person per day. The other option would be to lease the fish from commercial boats at around $3 or $4 per pound, a cost that would be passed on to you. Under the CSP, the commercial fishermen get to sit on the beach while you catch their fish and pay them for the privilege.

Why? Good question. It’s not a conservation issue because the halibut not caught by you will be reallocated to increase the numbers caught by the commercial halibut fleet.

Who’s Next?

The private (non-guided, non-commercial) sportsman will be the next to be restricted. They will be receiving tags for fish caught to track numbers of fish. This is the first step towards their allocation.

What About the Bycatch (the non-targeted fish caught commercially and dump over the side of their boats)? What a Waste!

The Ground fish Trawl fleet drag a great big weighted net on the ocean floor or mid-water and scrape up everything, then pick out the one species of fish they want and throw the rest over the side. The total halibut bycatch for 2010 was 11,433,055 million pounds of dead fish (mostly by the trawl fisheries). The average fish caught is 5-7 lbs. so that means almost 2 million fish were wasted. They are not only dumping your halibut over the side but hundreds of other species of sea life including 44,355 king salmon just in the Gulf of Alaska alone. The real problem is that observer coverage of the by-catch is very limited. Most of the boats that take the largest share of the catch in the Gulf of Alaska have 0% or 30% observer coverage. This means we have no idea how much is thrown over the side. So these numbers are far from accurate. If you’d like to see a 4 minute video of Halibut bycatch check out:

What Can You Do?- Go to www.homerfishing/ for info and sample letters

Contact these people: ask questions, make comments, and fax or email letters

President of the United States, Barrack Obama-

Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke-

Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA Chief Administrator-, Fax (202) 408-9674

Eric Schwaab, Assistant Administrator of Fisheries-, (301) 713-2239 x 195

Governor Sean Parnell, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Mark Begich, Rep. Don Young

The contact information for these four can be found on