December 2015 NPFMC Meeting Agenda

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) has posted its December meeting agenda, including discussion of the CATCH proposal.

The CATCH proposal will be discussed under the title Charter Halibut RQE Program, reference code C6, December 7-15, 2015 at the Hilton Hotel in Anchorage.

The CATCH proposal aims to purchase and permanently transfer commercial fishery quota to charter operations. Charter captains would not be responsible for funding the IFQ purchase. Source of funding is not yet clear, though sale of a halibut stamp has been proposed.

If adopted, this proposal would increase fishing pressure on large halibut near coastal communities where charter operations are prevalent. Read below for comments submitted by Alaska Halibut Forever.

Final decision is scheduled for a meeting in April 2016.  Submit comments to npfmc.comments@noaa.gov by December 1 at 4:00 pm. Comments to this agenda item should reference code C6.

For more information: npfmc.org/upcoming-council-meetings

Phone number for the NPFMC office is (907) 271-2809

 

Comments submitted by AKHF

Subject: Charter Halibut RQE Program (reference code: C6)

Dear Council member –

I am a member of “Alaska Halibut Forever,” a community organization based out of Gustavus, AK. Our organization intends to protect people who fish for their food against halibut depletions near coastal communities. We support a change in the sport fishing culture away from pursuit of trophy-sized fish, and offer information on sustainable halibut fishing.

Alaska Halibut Forever opposes the Charter Halibut RQE Program, aka the CATCH Proposal, reference code C6.

Halibut stock monitoring and regulatory actions by the NPFMC and the IPHC have been based on large areas like 2C and 3A, without considering the risk for depletions near coastal communities.

According to statistics by the ADF&G, our local area “Glacier Bay,” including Glacier Bay, Icy Strait and Cross Sound, often has the largest sport catch (guided + non-guided) of the six statistical areas in southeast Alaska. In 2012 and 2013, sport catch (in pounds) approximately equaled commercial catch for this area. A table outlining these figures is available on our website (see below).

Based on the target IFQ purchase (in pounds), the Charter Halibut RQE Program would result in a 69% increase in allowable charter catch over the 2015 allocation for Area 2C and a 42% increase for Area 3A. This increase would not be evenly distributed across southeast Alaska; fishing effort would increase around communities like Gustavus, Excursion Inlet, Angoon, Elfin Cove, Whittier, Seward and Homer where charter fishing is popular and where there is no plan in place to prevent against local area depletions.

Also, while commercial fishermen are required to keep all legal-sized halibut, guided-sport fishing regulations encourage fishermen to pursue large fish. If the Charter Halibut RQE Program goes through, it will have an important impact on female fish, the largest of which are our most prolific breeders. We cannot continue to increase pressure on big halibut and expect to keep fishing that way.

The Charter Halibut RQE Program would also reduce commercial halibut catch in Area 2C by 16% (3A by 10%) from the 2015 allocation. If IFQs are purchased from larger commercial vessels, the result will increase fishing efforts near communities. If IFQs are purchased from the less expensive “D Class,” smaller-boat quotas, the shift would decrease opportunities for new people to enter the commercial fishery. Either way, less IFQ would be available for commercial fishermen and those fishermen would have to pay for their IFQs, while competing with the RQE Program, funded by an external stream of money. The loss would not be balanced by increased opportunity to enter the charter fishery, because those permits are on a limited entry basis. Therefore, the Charter Halibut RQE Program can only increase profits for people already in the charter fishery.

For more information about Alaska Halibut Forever and our recommended fishing practices, please see the attached brochure made available in Gustavus and Excursion Inlet in June 2015 and visit akhalibutforever.wordpress.com.

Thank you,

Heidi Herter Davis, MS Fisheries

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