Change Necessary to Protect Halibut Resource in Southeast Alaska
May 08, 2009
"While today's rule addresses an immediate need to better manage the charter halibut fishery, we believe the long-term solution to sustainably managing the fishery is for the charter halibut fishery to join with the commercial halibut fishery in a catch share program," said Doug Mecum, acting regional administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service in Alaska. "Catch share programs that allocate the total allowable catch to participants in the fishery give a strong incentive to fishermen to conserve fish stocks."
Halibut fishing along the Pacific Coast is managed under overall limits set for each fishing area. Sport charter halibut fishermen in Southeast Alaska have exceeded their assigned harvest levels for several years.
"Sport charter fishing has grown in southeast Alaska while halibut abundance has decreased," said Mecum. "With this rule, we are trying to reduce the charter halibut catch to ensure that we continue to fish sustainably. We want to work with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on a long-term solution for sustainable fishing by both commercial and recreational fishing sectors."
Halibut Coalition members support
the change and say it is a necessary step to conserve a threatened
resource. "The charter industry in Southeast has been allowed
to grow unchecked for too many years," said Wrangell fisherman
Alan Reeves. "Now the one halibut bag limit is necessary
to keep them within their allotted GHL. There's only so much
resource, and so many people who can make a living off that resource.
They have to become responsible users, and that means staying
within their GHL."
According to information provided
by the Halibut Coalition, halibut overfishing has hurt subsistence
and non-guided sport fishermen as well. Since charter boat fishing
is concentrated near communities, the overharvest has caused
significant localized depletion of the halibut resource. This
makes it increasingly difficult for Southeast subsistence and
non-guided sport fishermen to catch fish.
Managers put a similar rule in place last spring, but sport charter halibut operators challenged it on procedural grounds and the agency withdrew the rule.
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