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Further Review Announced for Halibut Catch Sharing Plan


September 28, 2011
Wednesday PM

(SitNews) - After conducting a preliminary review of thousands of public comments received on the proposed rule to implement a halibut catch sharing plan (CSP) in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska, NOAA Fisheries has announced a delay in the implementation of the plan.

According to the announcement by NOAA Fisheries, the public comment process elicited comments that raised a number of policy and technical issues which may require additional input from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council before NOAA Fisheries can proceed to a final rule. Specifically, numerous commenters raised concerns about:

1. the evaluation of the management implications at lower levels of abundance;
2. economic impacts of the CSP under all levels of potential combined catch levels; and
3. methods for calculating the average weight for guided angler fish that may be leased from commercial IFQ operators and the specific means for tracking and reporting guided angler fish.

U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) said in a prepared statement, “Announcement of a delay in the implementation of the halibut catch sharing plan will please some Alaskans and disappoint others but in the end there’s a lot more work to be done on this longstanding, divisive issue and some tough decisions to be made in the interim."

Begich said, “In my comments to NOAA Administrator Lubchenco, I said the public raised some legitimate issues which need further consideration.  This includes the adequacy of economic analysis of the impact of the rulemaking, a general concern I have raised about other NOAA actions.  I also share concerns about the fairness of the formula which would set the charter halibut quota below the sector’s previously set Guideline Harvest Levels."

“On complex resource management issues such as this, I rely on the appropriate regulatory bodies like the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to weigh the scientific data, impacts on the various user groups and communities, comments of the public and other relevant information," said Begich.  "I support ongoing work by the Council to examine management options during times of low halibut abundance, the efforts by charter operators to explore pooling options to allow more flexibility within their sector, and the needs for more biological research to better understand the current low abundance and diminished size of the halibut," he said.

 Sen. Begich said, “Both the commercial and charter halibut sectors are important to Alaskans and the state’s economy.  Years of divisiveness between these sectors need to be resolved with a plan which fairly sets allocations, clarifies the rules, addresses each sector’s unique needs, and allows flexibility for changing times.  I hope the continued review of this important matter will lead to development of a plan which is fair to all users and works to grow Alaska’s economy and ensure the sustainability of our halibut stocks.”

According to NOAA Fisheries, they will provide a briefing to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council at a future meeting requesting additional guidance from the Council on specific topics of concern. NOAA Fisheries is strongly encouraging the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to schedule time at its upcoming December meeting or during a special meeting if the Council determines that is appropriate, to provide guidance to the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) for 2012.

NOAA Fisheries is encouraging the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to provide guidance to the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) on specific allocation and management measures appropriate for the charter halibut fisheries in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska. At a minimum, NOAA Fisheries is encouraging the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to consider the existing guideline harvest level (GHL) allocations and the suite of management measures developed under the proposed CSP if it chooses to provide guidance to the IPHC.


Edited by Mary Kauffman

Source of News: 

NOAA Fisheries

Office of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich


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