Federal fisheries managers were expected to take action Feb. 9 on a halibut catch share plan allocation review during the virtual February meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
If the council concludes that its objectives for the catch sharing plan are being met and the program is functioning as intended, then the review is complete and the 10-year trigger for reevaluation is reset. If not, the council could request further analysis considering different allocation percentages of halibut in the commercial and charter sectors.
Extensive testimony on the subject ran to late afternoon on Tuesday, Feb. 8 and was continued until Wednesday, Feb. 9.
Among those submitting written testimony was Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) in Sitka, who said ALFA maintains that consideration of new allocation alternatives is not warranted, as the catch sharing plan has met council goals. Behnken said the CSP has brought a measure of stability to the halibut fishery, established sector accountability and tied both charter and commercial catch limits to resource abundance.
The charter industry has an uninterrupted season of historic length, and management measures are identified with substantial input from the charter sector to minimize impact on charter businesses and provide predictability to the extent possible in a dynamic natural resource, she said.
Tom Gemmell, executive director of the Halibut Coalition, told the council in written testimony that the CSP has for the most part met all program objectives, creating sector accountability and providing a measure of stability to halibut sectors and communities. Gemmell encouraged the recreational quota entity to look at all options to secure funding, including possible state options. He also noted that the COVID pandemic has disrupted two seasons for both commercial and charter sectors and the development charter management data set.
The council received 131 written comments on the issue, all of which are posted on the council’s meeting website, https://meetings.npfmc.org/Meeting/Details/2753
Some commenters said that they were pleased with the status quo, and others said the current CSP had failed to provide stability for charter operators’ needs, and that this has had an adverse impact on related community businesses, from coffee shops to mom and pop hardware stores.