By Laine Welch
February 15, 2006
When a quota system was implemented for Alaska halibut and sablefish in 1995, shares of the catch were distributed according to each fisherman's historical participation and poundage. About five hundred people were issued very small amounts, many less than one hundred pounds. They've never fished them, and those shares have lain dormant. Federal fishery managers have suggested for years that the quota simply be revoked, and put into the total pool made available for each year's halibut fishery. More recently, the Deep Sea Fishermen's Union (founded in 1912) has proposed that the shares be redistributed to qualified crewmembers through a lottery system.
There is not much halibut involved, said Phil Smith, director of the Restricted Access Management (RAM) division of NOAA Fisheries in Juneau. "In most areas, halibut quota that would be subject to the lottery would be less than one tenth of one percent of the entire quota share pool. That's about 150,000 pounds statewide. And if we put the word out to these people to use it or lose it, there is a good chance the amount available would become even smaller," Smith said.
That poundage is still enough to make it worthwhile to displaced deckhands who would like to own a piece of the halibut action, said DSFU's Tim Henkel who proposed the lottery idea last December. Henkel's plan would provide increments of 5,000 pounds for the lottery, and it would only be available to those who have never owned quota shares.
"Halibut quota starts at $20 to $22 a pound, meaning a value of about $100,000.
So it is significant to a crewmember, and it gives them a little leg up," Henkel said. He said that he did not receive an initial allocation of halibut shares, but was able to purchase some through a federal loan program that helps entry level and small boat fishermen obtain quota shares. "It turns you into a new breed of cat, it's like home ownership. When you become vested in the fishery, you look at things differently and become more professional and accountable," Henkel said.
Accountability is another important part of Henkel's plan. "In order to qualify, you must apply to RAM and get the transfer eligibility certificate, which means you also must have documented 150 days of fishing time. So even if you don't win the lottery, you'll have all the paperwork in to purchase quota through the loan program. I don't care if you have a gazillion dollars, you can't buy one pound without that documentation," he said.
Phil Smith agrees that the
halibut lottery "opens the door a tiny crack and lets in
a few lucky people." The question becomes whether
all of the administrative and official work involved is in the
public's best interest for such a limited benefit. Smith
said if the Council approves the idea in April, it will take
two or three years before the lottery will be in place.
According to the weekly fisheries
publication Laws for the Sea, Heimbuch has owned and operated
a set net site in Cook Inlet for more than 40 years. He also
has participated in herring, halibut, shrimp and crab fisheries
in many regions of the state. He has been a lobbyist and consultant
on Alaska Peninsula and Bristol Bay fishing issues, and
is currently on the Homer city council.
Larry Van Ray has not fished commercially, but holds degrees in wildlife and fisheries biology. He was a Fish and Game biologist at Bristol Bay in the early 1970's and worked as a fisheries project leader for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Kenai until 1984.
Governor Murkowski has until April 1 to make his appointments to the Fish Board, and they must be approved by the Legislature. Besides commercial fisheries, the board also oversees state subsistence, sport and personal use fisheries.
The Governor will also soon name his recommendations for two seats coming open on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council - Arne Fuglvog of Petersburg and Ed Rasmussen of Anchorage. Those seats must be approved by the Secretary of Commerce.
On a related note - along
with a race for Governor, half of the Alaska Senate seats and
all of the House seats are up for election this year.
The program will include classes
in seafood processing, sanitation, marketing and logistics, business,
and personnel and plant management. After spending the summer
working at a seafood processing facility, students will take
off next year on an all expenses paid, 10 day trip to the east
coast and Iceland to see first hand the technology and operations
used by other cold climate seafood processors.
Deadline for applications is March 3, 2006. Successful candidates will be notified by March 29. Questions? Contact Angela Camos via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 907-274-9691. Get more information at www.marineadvisory.org .
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