Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hired Skipper Privileges Changing in Halibut/Sablefish IFQ Fisheries

Changes effective Dec. 1 in the Pacific halibut and sablefish fisheries in the Bering Sea/ Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska will require owners of catcher vessel sector individual fishing quota to be on board, rather than a hired skipper.

The IFQ program had allowed initial recipients of catcher vessel halibut and sablefish quota share to hire a vessel master to harvest the annual allocation of IFQ derived from the quota share.

Under the amendment effective Dec. 1 initial quota share recipients are not allowed to use a hired master to harvest IFQ derived from catcher vessel quota share that they received after Feb. 12, 2010, with a limited exception for small amounts of quota share.

The change, noted the National Marine Fisheries Service, is necessary to maintain a predominantly owner-operated fishery.

The effective date is a long time coming.

The amendment to the fixed-gear commercial Pacific halibut and sablefish fisheries in the BSAI and GOA, was proposed to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in the spring of 2009.

Frank Miles of Kodiak, who made the proposal, said that grandfather/hired skipper privileges had led to widespread abuse of the 20 percent boat ownership requirement, and that the hired skipper privileges promoted leasing of quota and the common practice of charging excessive rents.

This amendment is a good solution as it would accelerate the IFQ program towards a fishery dominated by owner-operators, and it would address a number of abuses related to the grandfather/hired skipper privileges, Miles said in his proposal.

The winners of the amendment to the grandfather/hired skipper privileges, said Miles, “would be future participants, second generation IFQ holders, Alaska coastal communities, IFQ broker businesses, lending institutions, and the NPFMC.”

Could federal fisheries officials have speeded up the process?

Glenn Merrill, assistant regional administrator for the sustainable fisheries division of the Alaska Region NOAA Fisheries, thinks not.

“NOAA Fisheries received extensive public comment on the proposed rule,” Merrill said. “Some of those comments raised complex issues with the rule that took time to properly address.

“Publishing the final rule earlier in 2014 would not have resulted in speedier implementation,” Merrill said.

“In fact, a mid-year implementation would have required a complicated series of actions that would be burdensome on the fleet. We sought to avoid that.

“Our implementation schedule on this action is consistent with discussions we had with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council as the rule was developed. The council understood that we needed the final rule to be effective between the IFQ fishing seasons so that we could properly account for and track the quota share affected by this rule. We described the need to implement this action after an IFQ fishing season (i.e. after November) in the proposed rule and in the analysis prepared for this action,” he said.

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