SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


One Halibut per Day Rule Implemented
Change Necessary to Protect Halibut Resource in Southeast Alaska


May 08, 2009

In a new rule released Wednesday, NOAA's Fisheries Service reduced the number of halibut that charter vessel anglers in southeast Alaska can keep each day from two to one to protect the halibut stock. The rule is a response to ongoing concerns about the depletion of the halibut resource in the area.

"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."
The commercial longline fleet operates under strict individual fishing quotas (IFQs). The commercial longline quota in Area 2C has been cut 53% over the past three years to protect halibut stocks from overharvest.  "As fishermen, we all have times when we have to suffer to keep the stocks healthy," said Kevin McDougall, a Juneau commercial fisherman. "The stocks are more important than the individual fisherman. It's time for the charter fleet to sacrifice some for the good of the halibut stocks, just as commercial fishermen have been sacrificing for years."

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.
As part of the new rule, effective June 5, a halibut sport charter vessel angler in southeast Alaska may use only one fishing line, and no more than a total of six lines are allowed on a charter vessel fishing for halibut. Further, charter operators, guides and crew are prohibited from catching and retaining halibut during a charter fishing trip.

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.


On the Web:

Details of the new rule



Source of News:

NOAA Fisheries in Alaska

Halibut Coalition


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska