Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Special Meeting of NPFMC Set for May 15

Federal fisheries officials will convene a special May meeting to review emergency rule requests regarding the halibut and sablefish in the commercial and sport fishing sectors.

Leaders among the halibut and sablefish sector stakeholders are asking the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) to consider greater flexibility in allowing all quota shareholders temporary transfer of IFQ for the 2020 season while preserving the vessel class and other provisions associated with catcher vessel quota share.

The objectives would also include reduced costs and time burden of mandatory quarantines for individuals traveling to harvest their quota share.

The current quarantine protocol, they told NOAA Fisheries, could result in a time requirement of 30 to 40 days in order to harvest quota share of any amount, when considering a 15-day pre-travel quarantine, in addition to a 15-day quarantine upon arrival at the port of harvest.

The issue arose because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which poses a risk for some harvesters due to underlying health factors ranging from age, asthma or high blood pressure to diabetes, heart disease and pregnancy.

NOAA criteria allowing for a medical transfer of IFQ for quota share holders consider only the IFQ holder and do not more broadly include the health of crew or the communities they fish from as considerations for a medical transfer during this pandemic, stakeholders told Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for fisheries with NOAA. Nor do these criteria consider the increased risk of creating new vectors for the spread of COVID-19 due to travel necessary for quota shareholders to harvest their IFQ, or the cost of the newly imposed travel restrictions and quarantine mandates issued by the state of Alaska, they said. Another concern is that the current interpretation for medical transfers is applied only to individuals who are not otherwise eligible to use hired masters.

A second emergency rule issue to be considered at the May 15 meeting comes from the charter sector, seeking to amend Area 2C and 3A charter angler management measures for 2020 while Alaska COVID-19 interstate travel restrictions are in place. Details of their request are included under the meeting agenda available for review at

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