FINALLY! SENATE PASSES NECESSARY LANGUAGE TO ALLOW FUNDING MORE QUOTA FOR THE CHARTER HALIBUT SECTOR:
FROM SENATE BILL S. 906:
SEC. 6. FEES.
(a) In General.—The North Pacific Fishery Management Council may recommend, and the Secretary of Commerce may approve, regulations necessary for the collection of fees from charter vessel operators who guide recreational anglers who harvest Pacific halibut in International Pacific Halibut Commission regulatory areas 2C and 3A as those terms are defined in part 300 of title 50, Code of Federal Regulations (or any successor regulations).
(b) Use Of Fees.—Any fees collected under this section shall be available, without appropriation or fiscal year limitation, for the purposes of—
(1) financing administrative costs of the Recreational Quota Entity program;
(2) the purchase of halibut quota shares in International Pacific Halibut Commission regulatory areas 2C and 3A by the recreational quota entity authorized in part 679 of title 50, Code of Federal Regulations (or any successor regulations);
(3) halibut conservation and research; and
(4) promotion of the halibut resource by the recreational quota entity authorized in part 679 of title 50, Code of Federal Regulations (or any successor regulations).
Passed the Senate July 22, 2020.
Pacific halibut stocks are in decline. Anglers who choose to access the public's halibut get treated differently than resident and non-resident anglers who own private boats.
There is a healthy debate about whether private halibut anglers should be treated the same as guided anglers and other sectors. Should everyone "share the pain"?
Congress ordered a regular review of allocation of fish between sectors. Fishery Management Councils don't like to handle allocation food fights. Over time Councils have allowed catch sharing plans to age past their expiration dates.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act sets the "best economic value to the nation" as the guideline for dividing up finite catch limits between states, between regions, tribes, recreational and commercial sectors. Social and community resiliency also play a role in the way Councils divvy up the fish.
Long story short, the North Council is being forced by law to initiate a full review of the allocation of Pacific Halibut in Alaska. The Alaska Charter Association has always maintained that charter halibut quotas were set too low in the initial decision, especially considering the economic value of halibut caught by recreational anglers to the nation.
The ACA will be strongly active in this upcoming review of halibut allocations at the North Council in 2021. This process will be separate, but parallel to, the RQE, a plan for compensated reallocation of halibut from the commercial sector to the guided angler sector.
April 12, 2018
In February 2017, the Council initiated an analysis for limiting the simultaneous possession of guided halibut with unguided halibut in IPHC Areas 2C and 3A in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action was undertaken by the Council because different regulations apply to guided and unguided (i.e., charter and non-charter) halibut fishing trips, which presents difficulties for accountability and enforcement. At the April 2018 meeting, the Council selected a modified Alternative 3 as its preferred alternative. Under Alternative 3, if guided and unguided halibut are onboard the fishing vessel at the same time, the stricter IPHC annual management measures for guided sport fishing would apply to all halibut anglers on board the fishing vessel.
The Council selected Alternative 3 because it provides some flexibility for charter operations to mitigate impacts of stricter guided restrictions, while also to improving accountability and enforcement by providing regulations that are clear and concise. When both guided and unguided halibut is onboard, vessels must comply with guided sport fishing regulations for bag and possession limits, size restrictions, and carcass retention requirements. The Council did not, however, require compliance with three other regulatory requirements that apply to guided anglers: day-of-the-week closures, recording harvest in a saltwater logbook, and annual limits. The Council did not include these additional regulations for unguided anglers because of their implementation difficulties, enforcement challenges, and the potential for financial harm to multi-day fishing vessels.
You can view the motion here. Staff contact is Jon McCracken.
October 11, 2018
The Council reviewed a discussion paper to explore mechanisms to create a registry for motorized rental boats that are used by unguided anglers to harvest halibut in IPHC regulatory areas 2C and 3A, and initiated an analysis. The Council requested the discussion paper in December 2017, and stated that they were concerned that differences in harvest regulations between guided and unguided sport anglers, and the apparent growth of the rental boat segment of the unguided sector may negatively impact other halibut fishing sectors. The discussion paper provided an overview of existing vessel registration programs, examined patterns in halibut harvest in the unguided, guided, and commercial sectors in recent years, and addressed questions posed by the Council in their December 2017 motion. After review, the Council passed a motion initiating an analysis of alternatives to require registration for non-guided rental vessels in IPHC areas 2C and 3A, and align bag limits between charter anglers and anglers on non-guided rental vessels by applying the charter angler daily bag limit and size limit to recreational anglers. Staff contact is Steve MacLean.
April 12, 2018
The Council took final action on an issue that would create an annual renewal process for charter halibut permits (CHPs) in IPHC Regulatory Areas 2C and 3A. This application process would require CHP holders (including Community Quota Entities and U.S. Military Morale, Welfare, and Recreation groups) to submit CHP number, CHP holder name, address, phone number and/or email address, as well as any updates to the CHP ownership structure. The application would also include a question asking whether financial compensation was received from use of a CHP in the preceding year.
The intent of this renewal process is to provide more complete and useful information to evaluate whether changes to the CHP Program are necessary as a result of changes in ownership and participation of CHPs, to facilitate retirement of non-transferable permits when ownership changes, and improve the ability of enforcement agents to ensure valid permits are being used.
The CHP renewal application will not be required until the action is approved by the Secretary of Commerce, and the appropriate capacity for collecting this type of information has been implemented.
The motion is available here. Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.
December 14, 2017
The Council chose to take no action at this time on a proposal to establish annual charter halibut permit (CHP) trip limit categories. The proposal was suggested because the amount of effort expended in the fishery is one of the contributing factors to the overall charter halibut harvest, and increased effort can contribute to increasingly restrictive management measures. The proposal was an attempt to reduce the level of unused and underutilized (latent) capacity in the halibut charter sector, in order to have more control over the level of effort (in terms of trips or angler-trips taken).
The analysis, public testimony, and further discussion highlighted that the extent of unused and underutilized CHPs makes it difficult to project and ultimately control the level of effort in the fishery. Most of the other factors that influence the amount of effort in the charter halibut sector (e.g., seasonal tourism trends, ocean and weather days, angler demand, etc.) are outside of the Council’s control (expect for annual management measures), and this may impede the use of CHP trip limits as an effective input control.
Although concerns were expressed about increasingly restrictive charter halibut management measures, and charter businesses’ desire for more stability and personalized choice in responding to the factors influencing management measures, Council members noted that this proposed tool might not be responsive to these concerns, and management measures could continue to be restrictive. Particularly at low levels of halibut biomass, even if the action was successful at “freezing” the level of effort in the fishery. Council members stated that they believed the potential benefits would not outweigh the risks and potential inequities that this action would cause. Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.