New southeast Alaska charter boat halibut fishing measure could create significant improvement in 2012

Here is a gift wrapped under the charter boats in southeast Alaska that could mean better management for halibut fisheries.

This is the news release sent to me from Heath E. Hilyard, Executive Director of the Southeast Alaska Guides Organization:

Following several days of meetings by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) regarding the future of charter halibut management in Southcentral (Area 3A) and Southeast (Area 2C) Alaska, the Southeast Alaska Guides Organization (SEAGO) described the outcome of the meetings “a qualified success.”

The Council’s agenda included items addressing management measures for Alaska’s charter fleet for the 2012 season and the future of the highly controversial Catch Sharing Plan (CSP).

On Sunday, December 11th, the Council took up recommendations for 2012 management measures. Those measures addressed how many halibut, and their respective size, could be kept on a daily basis.

Under that agenda item, the Council determined that there would be no change for Southcentral (2 fish per day with no size restriction) and that Southeast would be managed under a “reverse slot limit.”

The reverse slot limit for Southeast stipulated that charter clients could retain fish under 45-inches and over 68-inches.

Heath Hilyard, Executive Director for SEAGO stated:

“While not ideal, we believe the reverse slot limit measure represents a significant improvement for the 2012 season.”

The Council’s motion on Sunday also addressed changes for Southcentral operators. At one point, there was an amendment to the motion that would have limited “captain and crew” catch to the months of May and September.

However, following comments from a number of council members, including Alaska ADFG Commissioner Cora Campbell, that motion was defeated.

On Monday, the Council took up how they would move forward on the catch sharing plan (CSP). During the staff reports, National Marine Fisheries Service staff admitted that the plan could be considered a reallocation plan.

The plan, essentially, takes away harvest from Alaska’s charter sector and “reallocates” that catch to the commercial sector.

There were a number of provisions of the CSP that the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) found problematic and on which they asked the Council to provide guidance.

Many charter operators, throughout Alaska, expressed their dislike of the Guided Angler Fish (GAF) provision that would allow charter operators to lease back fish taken from the sector from reallocation.

Hilyard commented, “there may be many operators who would like a purchase option for IFQ but, from what I’ve been told, not under this GAF provision.”

SEAGO President Tom Ohaus, who owns a charter business in Sitka stated:

“Slowing down the CSP gives the charter industry a chance to focus on mid-range and long term solutions that show genuine promise for creating a sustainable, healthy charter sector that interacts well with our commercial counterparts while protecting the resource we all depend upon.”

For more information go to the SEAGO website.

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