Portraying the decision by the International Pacific Halibut Commission to cut charter bag limits as a war between sportfishing and enemies of sportfishing is an irresponsible misrepresentation which misses the boat altogether. The IPHC’s decision to cut charter bag limits is intended to do nothing more than keep charter harvest of halibut within its allocated quotas.
The commercial harvest quota of halibut is much, much greater than that allowed to charter boats, but then the markets served by the commercial harvest is much, much, much greater than the market served by charter boats. There are, after all, 300 million Americans who would like to eat halibut at their favorite restaurant or purchased at a market and cooked at home. There are, by comparison, merely a few thousand who have the means to hire a charter boat in Alaskan waters.
Second, charter halibut fishing is supposedly “sportfishing,” which is not necessarily “catching.” Halibut charters have become, not sportfishing, but a “something-for-nothing” meat fishery I’ll pay $200 so I can walk off the boat with $300 worth of fillets. By way of comparison, folks regularly engage a Kenai River charter, paying about the same as for a halibut charter, simply for the chance to catch one king salmon.
Third, halibut charters are depleting near-shore halibut fisheries, while commercial halibut long-liners fish much farther from shore. Near-shore fisheries simply cannot stand the pressure of uncontrolled, unrestricted, and rapidly-growing charter fishing. Charter boats in Southeast and Southcentral are regularly and grossly exceeding their allotted quota of the harvestable halibut biomass and need to be restricted.
There is no war and commercial fishing is not the enemy of sportfishing. The IPHC’s decision to cut charter bag limits for a few weeks six in Southeast and two in Southcentral is nothing more nor less than an effort to keep charter halibut harvest within its allocated limits. It’s all about markets served: charter boats bring a few thousand consumers to the halibut while commercial long-liners bring the halibut to millions upon millions of American consumers who like to eat halibut too.
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