The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has issued an emergency order prohibiting saltwater sportfishing guides and their crews from retaining fish while clients are on board their vessels for the 2007 season.
The emergency order is effective from May 1 through Dec. 31 in Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound. The order also requires the number of lines being fished not to exceed the number of paying clients on board a vessel engaged in guided saltwater sportfishing.
A similar provision will be in effect for Southeast Alaska waters.
Doug Vincent-Lang, a special assistant with Fish and Game who focuses on sport fish issues, said the action was taken not in response to the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s recent action limiting sport anglers to one halibut during part of the season, but in response to actions taken by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council when it established Guideline Harvest Levels for sport- and commercial-caught halibut several years ago.
“Although the commission did do something, we had told the council we were going to do this before the IPHC took their action,” Vincent-Lang said.
Vincent-Lang said halibut caught by charter captains and deckhands accounts for about 10 percent of the sport harvest.
“It will save about half a million pounds of halibut,” Vincent-Lang said.
In Area 3A, which includes Southcentral waters from Cook Inlet and Shelikof Strait to just south of the Copper River Delta, the halibut 2005 sport harvest exceeded the Guideline Harvest Level of 3.65 million pounds by 1 percent. Preliminary 2006 estimates indicate nearly 3.95 million pounds were caught, about 9 percent over the Guideline Harvest Level.
Fish and Game anticipates the 2007 harvest to exceed the limit as well.
The emergency order applies to all species of fish, not just halibut. Vincent-Lang said Fish and Game issued the emergency order based on authority granted to the department by the state Board of Fish to regulate harvests within established guidelines.
When Guideline Harvest Levels were first developed, Vincent-Lang said charter operators wanted management tools that wouldn’t impact their business. Prohibiting captains and crews from fishing has the smallest impact on the charter industry because it doesn’t limit what their paying clients can catch.
“It places limits on guides but ensures anglers still have the opportunity to fish. It’s the least disruptive of the different tools we’ve heard about,” Vincent-Lang said.
Will Morrow can be reached at email@example.com.
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