• New halibut charter limits leave some 100 boats out of the water in 2011
By Naomi Klouda
A retired, 65-year-old civil engineer who got into the charter boat business in 2001, Howard went out of business until 2006 while he spent $100,000 upgrading the 32-foot Sea Nymph.
“I wanted to get my boat reconstructed to better outfit it for recreational fishing,” Howard said.
He was in the charter business in 2001, and 2006 through 2009. He has taken as many as 430 clients out.
As past president of the Alaska Charter Association, Howard has been involved in the public process since 2006. At that time, federal fisheries agencies began debating the issue and took public hearings.
“I was real familiar with what was proposed and the process,” Howard said. “I expressed my opposition.”
Most of the Alaska coastline will be impacted by the new ruling. Rex Murphy, owner of Winter King Fishing Charters, said National Marine Fisheries Service estimates showed the combined area includes about 922 charter boat captains. Permit holders in 2C (Southeast Alaska down to Juneau and Sitka) and permit holders east of Kodiak Island in 3A — including Homer and Anchor Point — would not be able to sell permits to each other.
The NMFS estimates that, of the 502 permit holders in 2C, 347 will be transferable; of the 418 in 3A, 319 will be transferrable. This process effectively eliminates a quarter of the halibut charter operators out there, Murphy said. That would leave some 666 operators.
“Now remember, these are just estimates,” Murphy said. “If you live in 3A, you need to sell your permit to another person in 3A.”
The appeal process for those who currently don’t qualify for a permit includes pleading hardship. If a captain were unable to take out fishermen due to sickness or military service, or if he were making boat repairs, he would be considered a good candidate in the appeal process, Murphy said.
This means Capt. Howard — doing work on his boat that made him miss two seasons — may be able to successfully appeal.
The application process opens Feb. 4 and goes until April 5. NOAA Fisheries plans to mail out application packets, which are also available on the Web site at alaskafisheries.noaa.gov, or by calling 1-800-304-4846, and pushing option 2.
Making halibut memories
Brenda Hays, who commercially fished halibut for 19 years and now owns the F/V Memory Maker, said she believes this moratorium on new permits is a more acceptable idea than halibut IFQs.
“We all knew something had to be done. Selling my IFQs in some ways was a big mistake. I possibly could have applied them to the sport fishing industry, which I’m now a part of,” Hays said. “If I had to buy them now to stay in the sport fishing business, I couldn’t afford to do it.”
The Memory Maker passes eligibility requirements for permitting, which means Hays and Maker’s Capt. Bruce Lozekar will not be impacted.
“However, for a young person who wants to get into this business, it will be very difficult to find a permit that is for sale, and find the financing for said permit,” Hays said. “This is not advantageous for our younger generations — how will they be able to get into charter fishing now?”
In the IPHC 2008 Report, the total halibut catch for area 3A was 24.5 million pounds, while the total for all areas was 58.5 million pounds. The
“sport” catch in 3A was 5.6 million, with a total catch of 10.7 million for all areas.
“I feel those numbers speak for themselves,” Hays pointed out. “These numbers obviously show that the sport catch is a much lesser percentage of the total catch. However, the bycatch quota is not properly weighed, but guesstimated, and I feel their numbers could be way off.”
When 2009 numbers come out, it’s likely they will show that fewer tourists this summer mean even less halibut were caught in the sport fish category, she said.
“As for giant halibut, which are female, there is always the hope that someone will get one of historical size, and having a halibut derby enforces this because there is a considerable reward attached,” Hays explained. “The truth is, most trophy fish are stronger in taste. And many people can’t use that much fish in their freezers. Most of our clients prefer fish in the 20 to 40 pound range for table fare. If they get fish that are a little bigger or smaller, they are happy to catch and release. Female halibut have thousands of eggs, and when they are taken, this is a major loss for the species.”
Regardless, Hays said the ruling has merit because it may protect the fish for future generations.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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