By Billie (Bill) Buttry
We are told the intent/purpose of the proposed 2014 Catch Share Plan is to preserve the halibut fishery and reduce the number of halibut that are caught. The people who wrote the CSP and the commercial boats’ attorneys, in another underhanded effort to eliminate the charters, apparently think they have found a legal way to discourage a charters’ clientele and maybe systematically force halibut charter boats into bankruptcy by limiting each legally operating/licensed charter’s quota, (thru something called reallocation) and then offering to sell or “rent” it back.
Reallocating halibut from the charters to the commercial boats and then offering to sell/rent it back, one halibut at a time, doesn’t save one halibut. By definition, it sounds more like coercion or legalized pick-pocketing.
However, I think the people that authored the proposed CSP may have overlooked or ignored the possibility that the proposed 2014 CSP could be in violation of some aspects and the intended purpose of U.S. anti-trust laws:
“United States antitrust law is a collection of federal and state government laws, which regulates the conduct and organization of business corporations, generally to promote ‘fair competition’ or the ‘benefit of consumers.’”
The proposed CSP reduces clients of legally licensed, safe charters to catching one halibut per day. A charter’s clients may purchase/rent the opportunity to catch a second halibut from the commercial boats for a price; right now, that price is unknown. Each legal six-pack halibut charter will be limited to “renting” 400 additional halibut from the commercial boats. If the set price for each of those “rented” halibut is $100, that’s an extra $40,000 to the commercial boats from the pockets of the clients of just one six-pack charter.
If there are 50 six-pack charters in Homer, that’s a potential $2 million into the commercial boats’ coffer from the charters in Homer. That’s a potential $2 million that could be taken out of just Homer’s economy. How many other charters will feel the effect from Seward, Whittier, Deep Creek, Ninilchik, etc?
Additionally, if I want to catch a second halibut, I’ll have to pay commercial boats for it, but I’ll use a charters’ crew, bait, etc.
That’s not fair competition and it doesn’t benefit consumers; it only further benefits commercial boats. The CSP favors commercial halibut boats and financially impedes charters. There are way too many unanswered questions about the CSP, like: how much will it cost to rent/buy a second halibut from commercial boats; how does that process work; is there a possibility of a collusion to blackball specific charters and deny their clients a second halibut and/or use a short list of charters/friends they’ll sell/rent a second halibut quota to?
Benefit of consumers?
There’s a very real safety concern I think is being completely overlooked. It’s a ripple effect if the proposed CSP becomes law. With the legal charters’ clients being limited to one halibut per day, unless they want to “rent” a second halibut, some anglers will forgo spending the extra money for a legal and safe charter that has an experienced crew. They will instead try to save money and seek out the cheaper, unlicensed, unsafe fishing boats that have inexperienced crews. It’s a tragic disaster just waiting to happen. On every charter I’ve ever been on, I’ve seen boats miles out in the ocean where they shouldn’t have been. The CSP will only encourage more of the same. I challenge each of you to take a boat ride or do a flyover at an area near Homer called “Point Adam/Magna Rock” during an extreme rip-tide. Think about an unlicensed crew with an inexperienced crew and their boatload of innocent, unsuspecting anglers navigating into it. It can be a wild ride.
The proposed CSP is not just about trying to preserve halibut. There seems to be a hidden agenda against the legal charters in order to gain even more control of the halibut fishery. The CSP doesn’t save one halibut and if it becomes law, a lot of bad things can happen. None of the bad things will happen to the halibut long-liners or commercial boats. They are the only beneficiaries of the CSP.
The proposed 2014 CSP could be illegal because it doesn’t appear to promote fair competition and doesn’t appear to do anything to “benefit consumers.”
Billie (Bill) Buttry is a 61-year-old transplant from northern New York. He and his wife, Brenda, have lived in Alaska for 38 years. Bill served in the military in four different decades and retired in the rank of Sergeant First Class. He retired from the Alaska Army National Guard more than 10 years ago, with 20 plus years of service.
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