Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Southeast Halibut Charter Industry Finally Within Harvest Limit

New figures released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game show that the halibut charter industry in Southeast Alaska has stayed within its harvest allocation limit for the first time since the halibut charter guideline harvest level was implemented.

In a letter to the International Pacific Halibut Commission, the state agency reported a preliminary estimate for the Southeast Alaska 2011 charter boat catch of 390,000 pounds or about half of the 790,000-pound allocation.

Linda Behnken of Sitka, president of the Halibut Coalition, said in an interview with The Fishermen’s News that “it’s encouraging that management measures put in place have finally been effective after six years of quota overages.” Still the preliminary cumulative overage for the charter fleet in that area adds up to 3.12 million pounds since 2004.

This year the IPHC set a 37-inch maximum size rule for charter-caught halibut in Southeast Alaska, in a decisive more to control the chronic over harvest in the charter sector. Despite the fewer pounds, the number of fish caught in the charter sector in 2011 was 1 percent higher than the number caught in 2010, according to the state Department of Fish and Game’s preliminary estimates. Angler interest in charter fishing experiences in Southeast Alaska has remained steady despite changes in management measures and the overall economy.

The Halibut Coalition noted that the biomass of halibut in the Southeast Alaska area has dropped in half over the past six years. To conserve stocks, the commercial catch limit has been reduced 76 percent, although the commercial sector has never exceeded its allocation. The commercial halibut fishermen in Southeast Alaska and Southcentral Alaska provide 35 million halibut meals annually to some 9 million to 10 million domestic consumers, compared to 230,000 meals via charter clients, the coalition said.

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