Proposed Cuts in Guided Anglers’ Catch Postponed until 2013
Due to overwhelming angler response, NOAA Fisheries has postponed consideration of a rule that would give 30 percent of the halibut charter fishing allocation to commercial fishermen in southeastern Alaska. If implemented, the regulation would cut the daily bag limit for charter recreational fishing anglers from two to just one fish per day, reducing demand for these charter businesses and hurting the economies on Alaska’s small communities. Further consideration of the rule has been postponed until 2013 in an effort to gather more information on its potential impacts.
Federal fishery managers, who have already severely curtailed halibut regulations for guided recreational anglers in other parts of the Alaska, have posed a rule that will cut in half the daily recreational halibut bag limit in South Central Alaska. This reallocation will place even more of our nation's public resource into private commercial hands.
Federal fishery managers have touted this as a conservation measure. This is not true. The fish taken from the charter sector will be allocated directly to the commercial sector, which has a bycatch and discard rate greater than the total recreational allocation. In 2010 alone, commercial fishermen discarded over 11 million pounds of dead halibut – significantly more than the total charter catch that year. This yields no conservation benefit for the resource, only an economic benefit to the commercial sector.
The charter fishing sector currently has rights to a small percentage of the halibut harvest, allowing individual anglers on charter vessels to catch two fish per day. Even though the charter boats have consistently remained under their total allowable catch, NOAA Fisheries has proposed to take 30 percent of the charter boat allocation in South Central Alaska and give it to the commercial sector. The resulting regulation changes will cut the daily bag limit for charter recreational fishing anglers to just one fish per day.
While this rule would allow charter businesses to "buy back" halibut, this will cost an estimated $150 per fish, with the profit going entirely to the commercial industry. If this rule goes into effect, it will significantly reduce demand for the charter fishing businesses and have severe economic impacts on Alaska's communities that rely on tourism, including Homer, Ninilchik, Seward and Valdez. NOAA Fisheries has not provided an estimate of the economic damage this will cause, despite legal mandates to do so.
Anglers’ Voices Heard
Thanks to overwhelming angler response, NOAA Fisheries has delayed consideration of this rule until more information is gathered on its potential impacts. Almost 500 Alaskan anglers sent messages to their Members of Congress and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco through KeepAmericaFishing™ in opposition to this rule.
The battle is not over yet. NOAA Fisheries will take up consideration of the proposed rule again for 2013. KeepAmericaFishing will continue to monitor the issue to ensure that Alaska's halibut fishery is not unfairly turned over to private commercial fishing interests. Be sure to check back next year for more updates and to take action to keep the halibut fishery in recreational anglers’ hands.