NPFMC Moves on Halibut, Observer, Freezer Longline Vessel Issues

Federal fisheries regulators meeting in early October in Anchorage
approved new halibut catch sharing and vessel observer plans, and cleared the way
for replacement or rebuilding freezer longline vessels to greater lengths.
The halibut catch sharing plan, which increases the allocation
for charter vessels at the expense of the setline fleet, establishes a clear allocation,
with sector accountability for commercial and charter vessels in Southeast and Southcentral
Alaska. Once the plan is implemented, both sectors will be tied to the same abundance
index and both will be accountable for their own wastage.
Tom Gemmell, executive director of the Halibut Coalition, estimated
the loss in quota share value at $11 million to $23 million in area 3A and $1.6
million to $2.3 million in area 2C, depending on abundance levels.
Rex Murphy, speaking for the Alaska Charter Association, contended
that the council’s action gave no boost to the charter allocation. Linda Behnken,
executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, disagreed, saying
Murphy was comparing the new allocations to what the charter allocation has become
in 2012, which is very different than where the guideline harvest level was set.
The council also approved revisions to its observer deployment
plan that reflect a priority for monitoring vessels managed under prohibited species
catch limits in the trip selection pool. That measure also asks the National Marine
Fisheries Service to provide a strategic planning document for electronic monitoring
that identifies the council’s electronic monitoring management objective of collecting
at-sea discard estimates from the 40-foot to 57.5 foot individual fishing quota
In addition the council gave freezer longline vessel owners approval
to replace their fleet to a greater length, which will make the vessels
more market competitive and safer. The average age of these vessels is more than
40 years old.
In his testimony to the council Kenny Down, executive director
of the Freezer Longline Coalition, noted that as he was speaking his son Jake was
working on board one of those vessels. “We need to move forward for the safety of
kids like my son Jake,” he said.