Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Halibut Charter Fishery Issue Approved for Analysis

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has approved initiating an analysis proposed by Alaska’s guided recreational fishing sector for a guided recreational halibut allocation under a catch share plan.

A motion, passed during the council’s fall meeting this week in Anchorage, calls for analysis of a catch sharing plan which would be combined with the halibut quota share held by the recreational quota entity to determine the annually adjusted total guided halibut allocation. The total allocation would be the basis for the determination of appropriate management measures for the guided halibut sector annually.

Tom Gemmell, executive director of the Halibut Coalition, offered written testimony urging the council to consider the appropriateness of launching any major changes to halibut charter management at this time, given recent implementation of the Catch Sharing Plan and Guided Angler Fish program. There is a need to clearly identify a problem the CATCH plan might correct and the council should also consider the importance of convening all stakeholders to consider a broader range of alternative solutions to the problem if one is identified, Gemmell said.

Brian Lynch, executive director of the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association, said PVOA also opposed the move. “Given that 2014 is the first year of halibut charter management under the Halibut Catch Sharing Plan and provisions of the Guided Angler Fish program, we believe it is presently premature and inappropriate to initiate additional actions that would result in major changes to the halibut charter management,” Lynch said. “Any major changes in the CSP or implementation of the CATCH program should only be considered if at some future time specific implementation problems with the CSP and GAF programs are clearly identified.”

Heath Hilyard, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Guide Organization, said that there are still a number of important questions to be answered before this could become a reality, and SEAGO’s belief is that only a formal analysis can address those questions and concerns. “By approving this motion, the council has shown its willingness to consider a new and innovative approach that could resolve long standing allocation problems between the guided recreational and commercial sectors between two competing user groups,” he said.

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