Freezer Longliner Vessel Replacement Issues Face Final Action

Final action is scheduled at the October meeting of the North
Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage on options to allow larger freezer
longliners to harvest Pacific cod in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.
Kenny Down, executive director of the Freezer Longline Coalition
in Seattle, said in an interview Sept. 17 that he is hopeful that one of these options
will pass the council with little objection. “It is long overdue… for safety reasons
alone,” said Down, noting that some of the 25 active vessels in the fleet started
out as military vessels in World War Two.
Such rebuilding and construction of new vessels, which would
be subject to the highest US Coast Guard safety standards, would likely begin in
2013 and most of the fleet would be replaced over the next 15 years, Down said.
While it would not likely be hard to get financing for new vessels,
at an average cost of $20 million to $30 million, “we are racing against the clock,
because right now interest rates are low, he said.
Vessels operated by members of the Freezer Longline Coalition
are currently based in Kodiak and Petersburg, Alaska, as well as Seattle, and operate
out of Dutch Harbor. Down said he wasn’t sure where new vessel construction would
likely take place, but said options include Ketchikan, Seattle, Tacoma and Portland,
as well as the Gulf Coast.
There are three alternatives before the council range for this
fleet, also known as hook-and-line catcher processors, outlined in the council’s
Sept. 7 analysis for a proposed amendment to the fishery management plan for the
groundfish fishery in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.
The council noted in the regulatory impact review/initial regulatory
flexibility analysis that the goal is to change criteria to allow owners of Bering
Sea and Aleutian Island vessels fishing for Pacific cod to replace or rebuild their
vessels to a length greater than that specified under restrictions of the license
limitation program and the American Fisheries Act.
Specifically, the council proposes to first adjust the maximum
length overall specified on the license limitation program license assigned to these
freezer longliners. Originally implemented in 2000, each license limitation program
is endorsed for management areas, catcher vessel or catcher processor operations,
and the Pacific cod fixed gear target fishery, and specifies a maximum amount overall
for licensed vessels. Maximum length overall for the license was based on length
of the vessel initially receiving the license.
Details on alternatives options and other related issues are