• IPHC and NMFS still need to approve plan that may cut charter limits to one halibut
By James Brooks
Kodiak Daily Mirror
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted 10-1 Friday morning to revise a halibut catch share plan that aroused alarm from charter fishing guides last year.
The proposal recommended by the council sets catch limits using a 2008 plan that divided Alaska’s halibut quota between charter and commercial fishermen. That plan was to be implemented this year, but a backlash from charter fishermen across the state forced the council back to the drawing board.
The council’s vote is only a recommendation that must be adopted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service before coming into effect as an official regulation.
Only councilman Sam Cotten voted against Friday’s proposal, which eliminates the most contentious provision of the 2008 plan. That provision automatically triggered management measures like bag and size limits if the charter fleet was 3.5 percent above or below its allocation.
Instead, management measures will be manually approved each year by the North Pacific council and the IPHC.
Friday’s plan also establishes a sliding catch limit for commercial and charter fishermen based upon the overall halibut catch limit established annually by the IPHC.
The exact breakdown varies, but in general, charter fishermen get a lower percentage as the overall catch limit rises.
In area 3A, which covers the central Gulf of Alaska, charter fishermen get 18.9 percent of the total catch limit if that limit is less than 10 million pounds. If the total catch limit is greater than 25 million pounds, the charter share drops to 14 percent.
Different percentages come into play between those amounts.
If the system had been in place this year, charter fishermen in area 3A would have had a quota of 2.629 million pounds. Commercial fishermen would have had a quota of 12.393 million pounds.
Friday’s vote also calls for implementing a handful of smaller modifications to the 2008 proposal, including a prohibition on charter crew catching fish while guiding fishermen.
Data from Alaska Department of Fish and Game logbooks will measure the amount of charter catch, and if charter fishermen reach their limit, they will be able to purchase additional quota under a new program created by the plan.
The Guided Angler Fish program allows individual commercial halibut fishermen to lease up to 15 percent of their halibut quota to a charter fisherman.
Subleasing of quota is prohibited, and unused quota may revert back to commercial quota starting Sept. 15 each year.
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