NOAA Announces Halibut Catch Share Plan for 2014

Federal fisheries
officials will implement a halibut catch sharing plan for the commercial and
charter halibut fisheries in Southeast and the Central Gulf of Alaska in 2014,
the top federal fisheries official for Alaska said Dec. 9.
“This catch sharing
plan was developed through the collaborative effort and hard work of many
people over several years and, despite some challenges, we are pleased to be
able to meet the (North Pacific Fishery Management) Council’s request for
implementation in 2014,” said Jim Balsiger, regional administrator for the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alaska region fisheries.

“This plan will give
managers greater precision in setting catch limits and provide more flexibility
and stability in the charter harvest,” Balsiger said.

Up until now, the
charter sector was managed under a guideline harvest level, a management
program that was not optimal in preventing fishing overages when harvest of halibut
by recreational anglers on charter vessels increased in Southeast Alaska and
the Central Gulf, beginning in the late 1990s, he said.

The North Pacific
Fishery Management Council had recommended the catch sharing plan to replace
the guideline harvest level with a clear allocation between the commercial and
charter sectors in areas 2C (Southeast) and 3A (Central Gulf). The council
urged NOAA fisheries to implement the halibut catch sharing plan in time for
the upcoming season.

Under the catch
sharing plan, commercial and charter halibut operations will have a combined
catch limit, to be determined each year by the International Pacific Halibut

The plan is designed
to provide halibut fishery managers with greater precision in setting halibut catch
limits and management measures responsive to changes in halibut exploitable
biomass and fishing effort. Allocations to the charter and commercial sectors
will vary with changes in halibut abundance.

Balsiger said that
the catch-sharing plan also aims to provide stability and flexibility in
charter harvest.
One element of the
plan that allows for flexibility is the “guided angler fish” program, which
authorizes annual transfers of commercial halibut individual fishing quota to
charter halibut permit holders to give charter anglers the opportunity to
harvest halibut up to the limit in place for unguided anglers.

During the IPHC
interim meeting at Seattle on Dec. 4, the commission heard a recommendation for
a 2014 coast wide commercial catch of 24.45 million pounds, which is a 21
percent decrease from the 31.03 million pounds adopted as a final decision at
last year’s annual meeting of the IPHC.

Out of the 24.45
million pounds recommended under current IPHC policy, 4.16 million pounds would
go to area 2C and 9.34 million pounds to area 3A. That compares with the
adopted apportionments of 2.97 million pounds approved last year for area 2C
and11.03 million pounds approved for area 3A. The summary of apportionment and
harvest policy application for 2014 written by IPHC staff for the Dec. 4
interim meeting is online at

A final
determination on the allowable catch, and any regulatory changes, will be made
at the annual meeting of the IPHC Jan. 17 in Seattle.