In one day alone, the National Marine Fisheries Service received some 600 comments, according to an agency spokesperson.
On Oct. 5, 2012, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council took final action on the catch sharing plan, and on June 28 of this year NMFS published a proposed rule (http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/prules/78fr39122.pdf) to reflect the council’s final action. The regulatory analysis on the proposed plan is online at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/analyses/halibut/drafea_halibutcsp0613.pdf.
The proposed rule would implement a catch sharing plan for the guided sport and commercial fisheries for Pacific halibut in waters of International Pacific Halibut Commission regulatory areas 2C (Southeast Alaska) and 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska), replacing the current guideline harvest level program. The proposed rule would define an annual process for allocating halibut between the charter and commercial fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A and establish allocations for each fishery. The commercial fishery would continue to be managed under the Individual Fishing quota System. To allow flexibility for individual commercial and charter fishery participants, the proposed plan also would authorize annual transfers of commercial halibut quota to charter halibut permit holders for harvest in the charter fishery. This action is necessary to achieve the halibut fishery management goals of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, NMFS officials said.
According to Tom Gemmell, executive director of the Halibut Coalition, in Juneau, the existing 2003 guideline harvest level artificially tied the charter allocation to the average 199-2000 abundance while the commercial sector was tied to the current level of abundance. It’s the NPFMC’s intent that both sectors be tied to the current level of abundance, that both sectors share the allowable harvest on a percentage basis, and that both sectors’ allocations float with abundance, Gemmell said.
The Alaska Charter Association (www.alaskacharter.org) is saying in half page newspaper ads running in Anchorage that the plan would take halibut from the charter sector and “gift it” to the commercial fishermen, who could then “rent” that halibut allocation back to charter operators.
Comments may be submitted through August 26 online at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketBrowser;rpp=25;so=DESC;sb=commentDueDate;po=0;dct=PS;D=NOAA-NMFS-2011-0180.