NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service has extended from Sept. 6 to Sept. 21 the deadline to receive public comments on the proposed halibut catch-sharing plan. NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco made that decision in the wake of a visit to Homer, Alaska, last month, where she heard extensive comments from both commercial halibut setline harvesters and charter boat operators. Lubchenco said she wanted to be sure that anyone who wants to participate in this public process has a chance to do so.
Both commercial setline and charter operators also offered extensive testimony on Sept. 1 at a hearing called by the Alaska House Special Committee on Fisheries in Anchorage. Charter operators told legislators that the setliners get the lion’s share of the allocation. Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, himself a commercial halibut fisherman, noted that commercial harvesters had seen their allocation diminish without a compensating rise in the price they got for fish. He called for all harvesters to share in protecting the halibut resource. Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, questioned those testifying on how the proposed plan would affect the charter industry.
Halibut stocks have seen a steep decline over the past several years both in Southeast Alaska and the Central Gulf of Alaska. NOAA officials said the proposed catch-sharing plan was designed to foster a sustainable fishery by preventing overharvesting of halibut, and would introduce provisions that provide flexibility for charter and commercial harvesters. The fisheries are currently managed under separate programs.
All comments should be identified by RIN 0648-BA37. They may be submitted electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov
More information is at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/halibut/sport.htm