Charter operators divided on halibut IFQs

Posted: Friday, April 13, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Commercial fishermen and charter operators presented a divided front Thursday in testimony on the wisdom of a proposed individual fishing quota program for the halibut charter fleet.

''It's a poor fit with a sport charter industry,'' Seth Bone, a member of the Sitka Charter Boat Association, said in testimony before the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. ''It's a give-away of tens of millions of dollars worth of fishing rights to charter operators,'' said Bone, who opposes the IFQ plan.

''It will get us out of the mode of being cats and dogs in the garbage can,'' said Jev Shelton, Juneau, a longline fisherman who favors incorporating a halibut charter IFQ program into the existing IFQ program for commercial vessels. The charter operators and longliners are both major users of the halibut resource, he said.

''Those commercial components ought to be part of the same system; operate under the same rules.''

That is what the federal council's advisory panel has proposed, in a report delivered Thursday to the council. The council is expected to take final action by Sunday on the proposed quota

Under that plan, the International Pacific Halibut Commission would decide what portion of the total allowable catch for sport fishermen should go to charter vessels, and combine that portion with the commercial allocation. The federal panel would then be responsible for allocation, in a program to begin in 2003.

To operators like Bob Ward, who has been running fishing charters out of Homer since 1986, the IFQ program would be good for the halibut fishery overall. ''When you invest in a resource, you take better care of it,'' said Ward. ''Every boat gets its own opportunity to manage its own business, based on its own behavior.''

Under the plan proposed by the advisory panel, charter halibut IFQ would be issued to operators who carried clients in 1998 or 1999, with quota share based on 70 percent of the 1998 and 1999 logbook average. There would also be a longevity reward of an additional 10 percent for each year of operation between 1995 and 1997.

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