Current weather

  • Overcast
  • 55°
    Overcast
  • Comment

Photo by M. Scott Moon
A fisherman loads halibut following a successful trip in Cook Inlet several years ago. Who gets fish and how many they can keep has been a contentious subject this fall thanks to a proposed catch sharing plan that would manage charter and commercial sectors more conservatively and as a whole rather than the current system of separate management.

Two fish, one fish — dead industry?

Area halibut fishermen divided over proposed catch sharing plan

Posted: September 4, 2011 - 8:00am  |  Updated: September 8, 2011 - 3:14pm

 

The halibut catch share program would also:

 

• Authorize transfers of commercial halibut Individual Fishing Quota to charter halibut permit holders for harvest by anglers with certain restrictions, if approved.
• Place restrictions on filleting halibut onboard vessels.
• Prohibit halibut retention by operators, guides and crew on charter vessel trips.
• Prohibit commercial and charter halibut fishing on the same vessel on the same day.
• Prohibit subsistence and charter fishing from the same vessel in the same day.
• Keep in place the current two halibut bag limit for unguided, private fishermen.

Comments on the catch sharing plan can be submitted:
• Electronically by Sept. 21 through the federal eRulemaking website at www.regulations.gov
• By mail postmarked by Sept. 21 and sent to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK, 99802-1668
• Faxed to 907-586-7557
• Hand delivered by 5 p.m. on Sept. 21 to 709 W. 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau.

 

Central Peninsula residents usually embroiled in salmon-related issues are now taking sides over another cash crop of the area — halibut.

Specifically, commercial and sport fishing interests have drawn lines in the sand regarding a proposed halibut management plan designed to alleviate fishery-wide pressures caused by a decline in the amount of halibut available for harvest.

On the Central Peninsula, the sport fishing conversation is dominated by lodge owners and managers — like Bill Davis of the Salmon Catcher Lodge in Kenai — who think the plan could spell the end of one of the industries they depend on.

Davis thinks a provision in the plan that would regularly adjust the guided angler's bag limit between two fish of any size to one fish, based on results of stock estimates, would "break" the Peninsula.

"If they take the halibut away from us, there is a good chance we will put this up for sale," he said of the lodge he manages.

Simply put, fishermen won't travel to Alaska and spend several hundred or thousands of dollars to catch one halibut per day, he contends.

But commercial halibut fishermen like Roland Maw, executive director of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, are skeptical of such statements. Maw said commercial fishermen have already been hit with previous conservative regulations.

"I think it's a little bit of ‘Chicken Little,' you know running around saying the sky is falling and ‘Woe is me,'" Maw said. "Will it affect their business? Undoubtedly. But, will it force them out of business, every last one they are claiming? No. We're businessmen — we make things work."

Glenn Merrill, assistant regional administrator for sustainable fisheries with the National Marine Fisheries Service, said during a state legislative committee meeting Thursday that his organization has already received hundreds of letters on the subject from all sides .

Now, Merrill said he expects thousands of letters thanks to the extension of the plan's public comment period for an additional 15 days through Sept. 21.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is gathering feedback on the "catch sharing plan" — a draft rule recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to establish a clear stock allocation between the commercial and charter sectors fishing Alaska's Southcentral and Southeast areas.

Currently, the two interests — commercial and charter — are managed separately.

But under the new catch sharing plan, the total catch would be split between the two sides after all non-commercial and non-charter uses — mostly unguided sport harvest and subsistence — are subtracted.

Depending on how many millions of pounds are left, the charter industry will land in one of four tiers giving them a percentage of the catch, varying between 10.5 percent and 18.9 percent.

The tier system also sets a bag limit of either two fish of any size, two fish with one less than 32 inches long, or one fish.

"The number one consideration is that the halibut stock has seen a steep decline in recent years, and so the overall goal is to stabilize and rebuild," said Julie Speegle, public affairs officer for NOAA fisheries Alaska region. "Any management measures that are implemented would be with that end goal in mind because that's just for the overall economic benefit of the charter fishers and the commercial fishers."

Speegle said a one-halibut limit for guided anglers is "definitely not a sure thing" despite the cries of the charter industry.

"The conjecture that the catch sharing plan would result in a one-fish any size per day is based on an assumption that the 2012 limits will be the same as the 2011 limits," she said. "That is really unknown at this point."

She confirmed that if the plan was in effect this year, it would have limited the charter industry to one fish per angler, she said.

Mike Crawford, head of the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory committee, said at an emergency meeting Thursday the catch sharing plan would leave a "huge dent" in the charter industry, if not worse.

"This is a charter boat killer, this is an industry killer," he said.

Crawford thinks commercial interests would argue the charter sector needs to share in the "burden of conservation."

"But, we're not saving those fish," he said of the potential cut in halibut allocation to the charter sector. "That quota is going to get caught on the commercial side. This is a total allocation issue. This is not a conservation issue."

Much of the catch sharing plan, Crawford thinks, was developed in response to the Southeast fishery — area 2C — where harvest has exceeded guideline levels every year since 2004.

Merrill said the Southcentral charter fleet — area 3A consisting of Homer, Seward, Ninilchik and Deep Creek — only exceeded its guideline harvest level once, in 2007.

However, commercial interests have suffered decreasing levels of individual fishing quota — or IFQ — in both areas.

Since 2003, area 3A has seen a 37-percent reduction in allowable commercial catch, Merrill said. During the same time period in Southeast, the industry has declined by 73 percent, he said.

"Over the past 10, 15 years or so there has just been a huge growth in the charter halibut industry in Alaska and they have been overharvesting their guideline harvest level which results in a decline in the allowable catch for the commercial industry," Speegle said, noting she was mostly referring to area 2C.

Crawford, however, feels the charter fleet has already carried the conservation weight in 3A by sticking close to its guidelines.

"We've been limited to two fish when there was a high abundance of halibut out there," he said. "We weren't keeping four fish, six fish, eight fish, 12 fish."

He also pointed to the Charter Halibut Limited Access program that recently forced 30 percent of the charter fleet out of business through prior permit approval requirements, he said.

"They put 30 percent of the charter boats out of business this year for an allocation issue and now they are going to put another 30 or 40 percent of them out business with this plan," Crawford said.

Speegle said the goal of that program was "to stabilize the growth of the charter halibut industry so that it wouldn't become so overgrown that nobody could make a living doing it."

Maw said about half of UCIDA members hold halibut IFQ. He said the organization would formally support the measure.

Maw, who has been commercially fishing for halibut since 1973, said he thought the plan was a balanced approach to conservation.

"When we have the biomass and the fish that can be exploited, when that's high, then we all share, and when the abundance is low as it is now ... the plan says everyone is to back off and let the stocks recover," he said.

Drew Sparlin, a Kenai-based commercial halibut and salmon fisherman, shared a similar sentiment.

"We know that if the resource is in trouble, we have got to do something to take care of it and it may be painful for all of us," he said at the Fish and Game advisory committee meeting Thursday. "We can't let this thing get to the point where we can't recover."

Davis, however, still isn't convinced the catch sharing plan is the answer. In fact he said he has gathered about 450 letters opposing the plan signed by charter operators, guides and lodge owners to personally deliver to Alaska Rep. Don Young in Washington D.C. in mid-September.

He contends the Peninsula's economy rests on the shoulders of the sport fishing industry and more specifically the ability to catch two halibut as a way to satisfy customers when salmon fishing is slow.

"They are destroying tourism here and when tourism leaves the Peninsula, the last guy brings the flag and shuts the lights off because it's statistically proven that fish is worth 10 times as much in the river or in the freezer through sport caught than it is through commercial caught," he said.

Davis also mentioned area 2C, where charter fishermen currently are limited to one halibut per day no longer than 37 inches.

"In Southeast my friends have either gone out of business this summer, or they are going out of business," Davis said.

Marc Smith, owner of D&M Charters based in Deep Creek, said the catch share plan hurts places like Deep Creek and Ninilchik the most because the area is halibut-specific and lacks multiple species fishing opportunities.

"We will go back to a clam digging village like we were back in the ‘70s," he said.

Smith said he is determined to fight the plan.

"If it's the last thing I do at 60 years old before I pass away, I will do everything in my power to stop the commercial people from running over the top of us," he said "This is bull. And our legislators are going to take a wait and see attitude? You are talking economics and there again where was all the economic data on this when they decided this is what we are going to do?"

Maw said "nobody wanted" the catch sharing plan, "but the fish have to come first."

He said he feels for the charter operators affected by the regulation if it approved as is. But, "the fish just can't withstand this pressure," Maw said.

"I'm not happy about losing half of my quota," he said. "But, at some point you have to look the brutal facts in the face and say, ‘Yeah, I've got to back off ... or we are going to be in real trouble.'"

 

 

  • Comment

Comments (20) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
kenai-king
232
Points
kenai-king 09/04/11 - 09:27 am
0
0
Let the crying begin

You guys have been raping the fishery for years and now it is finnaly catching up to you. LOL

jbohren
8
Points
jbohren 09/04/11 - 02:16 pm
0
0
who's been raping the

who's been raping the fishery? The trawl fleet bycatch that takes over twice whats sport caught? The processors that pay a premium for the big females? the long liners that own 80-85% of the fish?

akmscott
131
Points
akmscott 09/04/11 - 04:57 pm
0
0
The solution is so simple-the

The solution is so simple-the fish should be primarily used by the people, including the charters.The commercial catch just plain needs to be the one that is cut in all cases.Without a doubt the have the biggest impact to all fisheries.They have had the money to buy their way this whole time and that also needs to change.

Concerned Citizen
5
Points
Concerned Citizen 09/04/11 - 05:11 pm
0
0
Poor Reporting

This article is horribly written. It fails to deal with fact and deals solely on opinion. Here are the facts on the Halibut Catch Share Plan.
1) It reallocates 30% of the Halibut previously caught by guided anglers to commercial fishermen.
2) Then the plan offers to lease those stolen fish back to the guided angler who had previously caught it. If you are fishing on a charter and you want to catch a second fish your guide has to prepay a commercial fisherman for what once was a right but is now just a privilege only afforded to those willing to pay over 150.00 in addition to the cost of a charter for a second fish. This is called Guided Angler Fish or Fish Rental from a Commercial IFQ holder.
3) The plan was put together solely by Commercial Fishing interests with no input from recreational or guided anglers.
4) The plan creates absolutely no jobs but kills tourism on the Kenai Peninsula.

Roland Maw and his comments in this article are a demonstration of complete disregard for the impact of tourism on the economy on the Kenai Peninsula. These comments and quotes demonstrate complete greed and the commercial attitude of kill everything now who cares about the future.

The reason there is a downswing in the biomass is commercial over fishing! The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council has allowed Commercial Fishermen to totally over fish the biomass. Now they are blaming charters for that over fishing. Charters are consistently under their allocation.

Get to know the facts before writing an article. Get to know the facts before formulating an opinion. Do not let Commercial Fishermen like Roland Maw pull the wool over your eyes. They represent a horrible wrong in our society where big money manipulates politics to the detriment of the American People. The Catch Share Plan is the theft of fish Joe Average American has been catching to the benefit of a few greedy Commercial Fishermen. Roland and this article have demonstrated a complete lack of concern for the economy of the Kenai Peninsula and only care about lining their own pocket.

This article and the Catch Share Plan make me sick.

BigRedDog
659
Points
BigRedDog 09/05/11 - 06:51 am
0
0
Mushy halibut syndrome

I sure hope that while we are dividing the catch share we are not overlooking the demise of our halibut fishery. With all the hype of share catch and quota I have not heard one word about the problem of Mushy Halibut Syndrome (MHS). As many as 1/3 to 1/2 of my personal catch the past two years has been MHS fish. The MHS fish seems more frequent with each fishing trip. MHS fish have a soft mushy meat that is much more white in appearance when filleted than the clear pinkish meat of a healthy fish. It is as suggested, mushy and soft with more of a fishy odor. Though it is edible the meat is not that fresh number one halibut you expect. The fish seem to tire easily and not fight vigorously from bite to surface. Then at surface they seem out of steam and give it up with out a fight. When placed on the deck if they don't flop around intensely, check them out. After giving a stringer of MHS fish a boat ride home and filleting them to find this yucky looking slimy goo meat, I learned. Watching out for MHS is now a priority. Local halibut charters watch too, and they don't give a skinny halibut a boat ride! Skinny fish are easy to spot if you are informed and watch for the signs you won't give one a boat ride. The space between the tail and the rest of the body seems slim and elongated on a MHS fish. Healthy fish have that weight lifter look of bugling muscle with clear distinct cut lines. While a MHS fish seems to look a little skinny and flatter! But 1/3 to 1/2 the fish caught is a startling number, will these fish recover? Should we release this fish to compete with healthy fish in an already taxed feed resource? Should more concern be shown about the effects of this MHS on the total population? Are we watching the demise of our fishery while arguing about catch share? Should MHS be a factor in the equation of managing a healthy sustainable fishery? These are the questions many knowledgeable local fishermen have raised. Should MHS be a plank in our debate platform is all I'm asking. So be informed and go to the ADF&G website and look up disease fish mushy halibut syndrome. For this is a scary unknown factor going under the radar. So watch out for and don't give a boat ride to a skinny chicken! Dennis Barnard, Kenai.

skw
0
Points
skw 09/05/11 - 09:48 am
0
0
Back in the 1980's the limit

Back in the 1980's the limit was 3? Back then it was much easier to catch a "big" halibut than it is today.

EWZuber
9
Points
EWZuber 09/05/11 - 11:48 am
0
0
Halibut size

I drove past a Halibut charter a couple weeks ago and they had several chickens lined up hanging from their meat pole. It looked so bizarre. I can remember decades ago the fish hanging from these poles used to be huge.
We are decimating our fishery stocks just as the West coast did. Now they want dams too. They either learned nothing from watching the lower states destroy their wild fish, they don't care, or the temptation to make money off them (while the stocks are decimated) is too great.
Someone, more likely everyone, is going to have to back off. That means anyone making money off the halibut will not make as much as they used to. Its a fact, but people are crisis oriented and will not want to change until the situation has reached crisis proportions, particularly where money is involved.

kenai-king
232
Points
kenai-king 09/07/11 - 10:52 am
0
0
Commercial VS Charter

These 2 are one in the same it's all about the dollar and nothing about the fish. Greed will kill this fishery just like the Kenai river Kings.

s2wheel
55
Points
s2wheel 09/07/11 - 09:05 pm
0
0
no body has ever mentioned

no body has ever mentioned the fact that 97% of our setnetters are running long lines with there nets, catching 300 to 500 pounds a day, thats alot of halibut. maybe we should start looking closer at what the set netters are doing.

witchwitch
51
Points
witchwitch 09/07/11 - 11:44 pm
0
0
That would be illegal

I seriously doubt the claim that 97% of the setnetters are also fishing for halibut. There is already law against that, as setnetters are only licensed to use their gillnets.

A setnetter may catch a halibut as bycatch, but that is very, very rare. Gillnets are fished on the surface of the water and past 12 feet deep or so, the fish swim below the nets. Only near the beach are the nets at or near the bottom. Few halibut run along the beaches.

s2wheel
55
Points
s2wheel 09/08/11 - 10:04 am
0
0
well i know it is illegal but

well i know it is illegal but they still do it,and you cant tell me they dont because I have seen it,if fish and game were to watch them more closley then it would stop.

EWZuber
9
Points
EWZuber 09/08/11 - 12:21 pm
0
0
importance of substantiation

I would not be surprised if some halibut lines were put out there by set netters but 97%? Its easy to throw a number out there and lets assume you have seen it happen but have you seen 97% of them doing it? I mean where did that number come from?
Can anyone else out there close to the situation corroborate the severity of the situation?

drudge
3
Points
drudge 09/08/11 - 03:12 pm
0
0
@EWZuber

Remember, 65% of statistics are made up on the spot.

username
0
Points
username 09/09/11 - 05:52 am
0
0
Who gets fish and how many

Who gets fish and how many they can keep has been a contentious subject this fall thanks to a proposed catch sharing plan that would manage charter and commercial sectors more conservatively and as a whole rather than the current system of separate management. Maw said commercial fishermen have already been hit with previous conservative regulations. This is a total allocation issue. This is not a conservation issue. He said the organization would formally support the measure. or we are going to be in real trouble.Without a doubt the have the biggest impact to all fisheries.They have had the money to buy their way this whole time and that also needs to change. It fails to deal with fact and deals solely on opinion. Here are the facts on the Halibut Catch Share Plan. This is called Guided Angler Fish or Fish Rental from a Commercial IFQ holder. These comments and quotes demonstrate complete greed and the commercial attitude of kill everything now who cares about the future. Now they are blaming charters for that over fishing. Charters are consistently under their allocation. Get to know the facts before formulating an opinion. Do not let Commercial Fishermen like Roland Maw pull the wool over your eyes. They represent a horrible wrong in our society where big money manipulates politics to the detriment of the American People. Roland and this article have demonstrated a complete lack of concern for the economy of the Kenai Peninsula and only care about lining their own pocket. The MHS fish seems more frequent with each fishing trip. MHS fish have a soft mushy meat that is much more white in appearance when filleted than the clear pinkish meat of a healthy fish. Though it is edible the meat is not that fresh number one halibut you expect. The fish seem to tire easily and not fight vigorously from bite to surface. Then at surface they seem out of steam and give it up with out a fight. Watching out for MHS is now a priority. The space between the tail and the rest of the body seems slim and elongated on a MHS fish. Healthy fish have that weight lifter look of bugling muscle with clear distinct cut lines. For this is a scary unknown factor going under the radar. I can remember decades ago the fish hanging from these poles used to be huge. That means anyone making money off the halibut will not make as much as they used to. Greed will kill this fishery just like the Kenai river Kings. maybe we should start looking closer at what the set netters are doing. Only near the beach are the nets at or near the bottom. Few halibut run along the beaches.Hope you like my post on google today.

BigRedDog
659
Points
BigRedDog 09/09/11 - 06:46 am
0
0
Absolute garbage is all I can say about your 97%

What is this Craig's List Rants and Raves, I seriously doubt if there is one set netter out there as stupid as this person is letting on! Long lines with set nets is against the law and to say anyone let alone a majority of the set netters are doing it is BS. You think some commercial guy is going to risk his butt to catch a flat fish? Give me a break, for one thing don't you think those other set netters might just say something? For another, do you think the Fish Cops are stupid? I'd bet almost every set net put in the water on every tide is flown over at least once bye the Fish Cops! You think those guys are DUMB? I guarantee there are Set Netters out there so honest they would be compelled to turn their our brother in for something that stupid! So don't say such absurd things in a public forum, it insults the integrity of a lot of very honest had working folks. To say "don't tell me" "I've seen it with my own eyes." Maybe you better check the lug nuts on your 2 wheels because your story has a little bubble to it and just isn't true!

s2wheel
55
Points
s2wheel 09/09/11 - 07:43 pm
0
0
hahahaha you guys are so

hahahaha you guys are so naive.

KenaiKardinal88
445
Points
KenaiKardinal88 09/10/11 - 06:48 am
0
0
Halibut Fishery Dying

Yes it's dying. The commercial fisherman will take everything and from everyone until there's no more. In this case, they control the politics and write the regulations. The halibut charters are also destroying this fishery by over-fishing. We've all been to Homer recently and seen that 12 "chickens" is now a good day fishing for the tourists.

The average Alaska is at the bottom of the list even though this is supposed to be a shared resource.

EWZuber
9
Points
EWZuber 09/10/11 - 10:05 am
0
0
assertion

s2wheel, you need to realize that you have made an assertion and backed it up with nothing. You have given us a percentage with no substantiation as to how that percentage was arrived at. You have not supplied us with any first hand accounts of how many set netters you have personally seen running long lines.
Laughing and saying someone is naive is posturing and means nothing.
So do not expect anyone to take you're assertion seriously as you have substantiated nothing and offered absolutely no evidence or even divulged the methodology as to how your assertion was arrived at.

s2wheel
55
Points
s2wheel 09/11/11 - 09:24 am
0
0
I have seen it with my own

I have seen it with my own eyes, ive lived here 50 years and they have done this since i can remember,my dad was a commercial fisherman he stopped fishing because it was a dieing industry, if you want proof then look for yourself they wont admit it openly because it is illegal. we saw a skate brought in the kasilof river in a set net skiff, how do you think they got it.

drudge
3
Points
drudge 09/12/11 - 08:29 am
0
0
@s2wheel

Anecdotal evidence is not proof.

Correlation does not imply causation.

In the immortal words of Wikipedia, [citation needed].

Back to Top

Spotted

Please Note: You may have disabled JavaScript and/or CSS. Although this news content will be accessible, certain functionality is unavailable.

Skip to News

« back

next »

  • title http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321268/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321253/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321248/
  • title http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321243/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321208/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/320593/
  • title http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321173/ http://spotted.peninsulaclarion.com/galleries/321163/
My Gallery

CONTACT US

  • 150 Trading Bay Rd, Kenai, AK 99611
  • Switchboard: 907-283-7551
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-283-3584
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Business Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-335-1257
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING

MORRIS ALASKA NEWS