Federal fisheries officials have extended the public comment period for the proposed halibut catch sharing plan by 14 days, after receiving a number of requests for additional time for public input.
NOAA Fisheries said today that with the 14-day extension, comments are now due Aug. 26. The proposed rule to implement a halibut catch sharing plan for guided sport and commercial fisheries in Alaska published in the Federal Register on June 28 otherwise would have closed on Aug. 12.
Most requests submitted to NOAA sought a comment period extension of 45 days, noting that the comment period falls at the height of fishing season in Alaska, and fishermen who might want to comment are out on the water and may be unable to submit comments by the deadline.
This allows for a comment period of two months. An extension longer than this would jeopardize implementation of the catch sharing plan for the 2014 fishing season should NOAA proceed with a final rule after considering public comment.
Jim Balsiger, the Alaska regional administrator for NOAA, said the agency is strongly encouraging people to take the time to sit down and read the actual text of the plan so they have the facts before commenting. Thousands of comments anticipated on the proposed rule must be analyzed and responded to if a final rule is to be published in late 2013 to allow for implementation for the 2014 charter halibut fishery.
The North Pacific Fishery management Council recommended the catch sharing plan to establish a clear allocation between the commercial and charter sectors in southeast Alaska and the central Gulf of Alaska, to provide stability for affected halibut fishery participants and to provide halibut fishery managers with greater precision in setting halibut catch limits and management measures that are responsive to annual changes in halibut exploitable biomass and fishing effort.
Address comments to Glenn Merrill, assistant regional administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, and identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA-NMFS-2011-0180. Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:
Electronic submission: via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov
Mail to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668
The proposed plan is online at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/