Federal Fisheries Managers Rule on Angler-Caught Halibut

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has ruled that when halibut harvested using sport guide services possessed with halibut not using sport guide services in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska that all the fish are subject to guided sport fishing limits.

The final action came during the spring meeting of the council this past week in Anchorage.

The council also approved implementation of an annual registration process for transferable and non-transferable charter halibut permits.

Both actions are subject to approval by the federal Commerce Department and so likely will not be implemented at least until next year.

Unguided sport anglers currently may keep halibut of any size without restriction and are not subject to annual catch limits, while guided anglers face daily bag limits, size limits, daily closures and annual catch limits.

The council’s action was supported by testimony of the Halibut Coalition, Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Alliance and Cordova District Fishermen United.

The Alaska Charter Association, which represents over 200 vessels engaged in guiding recreational anglers, had urged no action.

The Juneau Charter Boat Operators Association opposed the annual registration process on grounds that it would simply create more red tape for their industry, and that it simply was not a matter that warranted action.

Tom Gemmell, in his testimony for the Halibut Coalition, supported an annual charter halibut permit renewal plan, saying it would add to the integrity and transparency of the program and facilitate enforcement efforts by the US Coast Guard, National Marine Fishery Service and Alaska Wildlife Troopers. Given the considerable uncertainty regarding usage of non-transferable permits, the annual renewal process is needed to restore the credibility of the program, he said.