Halibut Coalition Members
Intervene in Charter Lawsuit
Subsistence, Commercial, Community,
Sectors Unite to Protect Resource
May 28, 2009
Halibut Coalition members moved to intervene Tuesday in the lawsuit
filed by the Charter Halibut Task Force seeking to overturn the
one halibut per day rule. The National Marine Fisheries Service
(NMFS) published the rule earlier this month to curtail charter
overfishing of the halibut resource.
Halibut Coalition members intervening in the lawsuit include
commercial fishermen, the Southeast coastal communities of Pelican
and Port Alexander, processing sector members, subsistence fishermen,
and Frank Wright Jr. representing himself and the Hoonah Indian
Association. All of the interveners support the federal managers'
decision to restrict charter clientele to retaining one halibut
The one halibut per day rule is a necessary step to curb charter
boat overfishing of halibut in Area 2C says the Halibut Coalition.
Over the past three years, the charter fleet has exceeded its
quota by an average of 55 percent, and last year exceeded its
quota by 106 percent, or almost one million pounds. The charter
boat fleet opposes NMFS' rule to limit the charter fleet to its
Information provided by the
Halibut Coalition stated, in contrast, as the halibut resource
has declined, the Southeast longline fleet has accepted a 54
percent reduction in the commercial quota over the past four
years. The dramatic cuts have created economic hardship for many
commercial longliners, some of whom are now in danger of losing
their quota shares or fishing boats due to the shrinking catch
limit. Even while they face economic ruin, the commercial fleet
acknowledges the smaller quota is necessary to ensure the long-term
health of the fishery.
"The commercial halibut
fishery has been around for 100 years," said Sitka longliner
Carolyn Nichols. "We've learned to put the resource first.
It's just common sense that we won't have a fishery in the future
unless we take care of the fish now." Nichols' son has filed
as an intervener in the lawsuit.
Quoting a news release, charter 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.
The news release stated that in order for all harvesters - subsistence,
unguided sport, commercial and charter to benefit from
the halibut resource in the future, the charter fleet must begin
sharing in the conservation burden now. The one halibut per day
rule will force the charter fleet to stay closer to its allotted
GHL, leaving more fish in the water to help rebuild the depleted
The Halibut Coalition said in a news release that while charter
boats bring people to the fish, commercial longliners bring the
fish to the people. Commercial longline fishermen and processors
in Southeast Alaska will provide Americans with approximately
10 million halibut meals this year. Many of these consumers do
not have the time or money to travel to Alaska to catch halibut
themselves. For most Americans, the commercial catch provides
their only access to the halibut resource.
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