The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is floating new ideas for regulating the state’s charter halibut fishery after an individual fishing quota system, first proposed in 2001, was rescinded at a North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting Dec. 9.
The new regulation ideas have been lumped into two alternatives. In one of the alternatives, the NPFMC would continue to directly allocate the charter boat fishery catch, and new regulations would potentially limit the halibut charter boat fishery’s growth.
A second alternative could expand the commercial fishery quota to include the charter boat fishery. This alternative could potentially permit commercial and charter boat fisheries to transfer quota shares between each other, allowing the charter boat fishery quota to decrease or increase, depending on the transfer of shares.
So far, Fish and Game has created only preliminary sketches of each alternative. As part of the outline for the alternative that would continue NPFMC allocation, Fish and Game has created a list of possible regulations for the halibut charter industry. The list includes annual angler limits, limits on days fished, reduced daily limits, a limited entry program for charter boats and local area management plans, also known as LAMPs.
Mel Erickson, a halibut charter boat fisherman from Soldotna, said he is opposed to LAMPs.
“What it comes down to is that you are going to draw imaginary lines in the water,” Erickson said.
He said Fish and Game failed in an effort to create LAMPs in the Cook Inlet area in the late 1990s, and he was surprised they are proposing the idea again.
“I think Fish and Game is dreaming, to think they can make this work,” Erickson said.
According to NPFMC staff member Jane DiCosimo, the NPFMC only supports LAMPs when they are generated by the community, from the bottom up. Although Fish and Game has not been clear on what kind of LAMPs it is envisioning, it sounds as though it is considering LAMPs that would be created from the top down, she said.
Erickson dislikes other regulations proposed under the allocation alternative, as well, and does not support it, he said.
To refine each of Fish and Game’s proposed alternatives the NPFMC will appoint a Charter Halibut Stakeholder Committee. The committee will be selected from a pool of commercial, charter boat and noncommercial fishermen applicants.
Although the measures are aimed at regulating the halibut charter boat fishery, the commercial halibut fishery also has an interest in the proposals.
“We’re concerned about the resource,” said Paul Shadura, executive director for Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association.
He said the charter boat fishery has become as aggressive as the commercial fishery and regulations must change to protect Alaska’s halibut populations.
“Other than a daily limit, there’s no check on what (charter boats) are taking,” he said.
The NPFMC requests that individuals interested in being appointed to the committee submit their applications by Jan. 10. The NPFMC is one of eight regional councils established by federal law to oversee management of the nation’s fisheries.
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