Wednesday, November 29, 2017

IPHC Reveals Need for Drastic Cuts in 2018 Catch Limits

The IPHC (International Pacific Halibut Commission) held its Interim meeting in Seattle, where the 2018 Reference Catch Table was released. It was based on an average past harvest SPR (Spawning Potential Ratio) of 46%. Simply put, this means we would have a fishing intensity to leave a potential of 46% of the females left in the fishable stock available to contribute to future stocks. In 2017, while the Commission aimed at 45%, the end result was closer to 38%. With this reference harvest rate (in the past this was known as the Blue Line), Area 3A charter allocation under the CSP (Catch Sharing Plan) is 1.7 Mlbs. a reduction of 10% from last year and Area 2C is .69 Mlbs. a 25% drop from last year.

What does this mean for charter regulations for 2018? For Area 3A, harvest measures would need to be more restrictive to reduce harvest by 18.6% (this includes accounting for an overharvest of allocation from last year). This might mean closing more days of fishing, decreasing annual limits, or moving to a one fish daily bag limit including these restrictions. For Area 2C, a reduction of 25% in allocation from last year might mean reducing the lower slot to 35” with an annual limit of three fish or 40” with an annual limit of two. The Charter Management Implementation Committee (CMIC) will meet December 4th in Anchorage to make their recommendation to the North Council.

Why such a drastic reduction in catch limits? Ian Stewart, lead scientist for the IPHC, explained while the current stock abundance has been stable as well as catch effort (a metric used to measure stock abundance), the number of fish being caught per unit of effort has sharply declined. He explained this indicates we are currently fishing on larger and older fish from a past large recruitment year class. The fish following this year class are smaller and fewer and thus the reason for a declining future outlook of halibut abundance. Of course the Commissioners at their January meeting will need to decide the level of harvest and risk they want to take for 2018. They may decide to take a position below or above the SPR of 46%. The CMIC will have to give recommendations for each of these potential outcomes as well.

Friday, October 20, 2017

ADF&G Informational Handout for Charter Management Implementation Committee October 10, 2017

Mixing of Guided and Unguided Halibut Final Council motion

The Council recommends releasing the analysis for public review after making the following revisions to the purpose and need, alternatives, and analysis. The preliminary preferred alternative is shown in bold.

Purpose and Need

Different regulations apply to guided and unguided (i.e., chartered and non-chartered) halibut fishing trips. Possessing halibut harvested from both guided and unguided trips on the same fishing vessel at the same time presents challenges for accountability and enforcement that cannot be adequately addressed by current regulations. Mixed guided and unguided halibut can occur on multi-day fishing vessels and mothership charter fishing and floating lodges, and to a lesser extent on fishing vessels that are owned by self-guided fishing operations that also provide sport fishing guide services to their clients. The potential for mixing guided and unguided halibut exists on every fishing vessel floating lodge and mothership that services halibut harvesters. The number of these operations and the associated halibut harvests remain unknown. The mixing of guided and unguided halibut could expand in the future as charter operators look for ways to maximize halibut harvests for guided and unguided anglers on their fishing vessels.
Once guided and unguided halibut are mixed aboard a fishing vessel, it is difficult to determine which halibut were harvested under the guided regulations and which halibut were harvested under the unguided regulations. The current regulatory structure allows guided and unguided halibut to be mixed on a fishing vessel but does not provide the regulated public or authorized officers with a mechanism to ensure compliance with the more restrictive guided halibut regulations. A regulatory change could ensure proper accounting of guided and unguided catch.

Alternative 1: Take no action

Alternative 2: Prohibit the possession of guided and unguided halibut simultaneously on any fishing vessel
Alternative 3: If halibut harvested using sport fishing guide services is possessed with halibut harvested not using sport fishing guide services on Convention waters in Area 2C or 3A, the IPHC annual management measures for guided sport fishing for the area that the halibut was harvested apply to all halibut onboard the fishing vessel.
Suboption 3.1: Include “other fishing facility” as well as “fishing vessel”. The Council recommends that the analysis be revised to:
  1. Include the revisions suggested by staff and the Enforcement Committee, except the recommendation to include a new suboption 2.1.
  2. An expanded discussion of the changes in guided and unguided halibut fishery management measures that led to an increase in multi-day, and mothership and floating lodge operations and increasing potential for mixing halibut caught by guided and unguided anglers.
  3. An expanded discussion of the regulatory history of current prohibitions on mixing halibut in the commercial, subsistence, and sport fisheries.
  4. Available information on mothership and floating lodge sport halibut operations in areas 2C and 3A (i.e., number of operations identified, description of services offered, whether operation holds CHPs, etc.) 

North Council's preferred alternative on CHP registration

Here's the motion that passed at the October NPFMC meeting regarding an annual registration of Charter Halibut Permits:

Alternative 2. Implement an annual registration process for transferable and non-transferable charter halibut permits (CHP). A CHP holder must submit the following information to NMFS on an annual basis to register a CHP:
  • CHP number,
  • CHP holder name (individual or non-individual entity), and
  • CHP holder address.
  • CHP holder phone number and/or CHP holder email address.
    If a CHP is not registered with NMFS, the CHP would not be valid for use during the applicable fishing year.
    Options for additional requirements could include (options are not mutually exclusive):
    Option 1. CHP ownership (e.g., ownership holdings for the CHP by individual(s), partners, or a corporate entity). 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

RQE Rule Published in Federal Register

NOAA has published the proposed rule for the Recreational Quota Entity, a buyback program for compensated reallocation of Pacific halibut.

Comments are due on or before November 17, 2017

Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska: 0648-BG57

Authorize Recreational Quota Entity to Participate in the Halibut IFQ Program

FR Document: 2017-20894

Citation: 82 FR 46016

Abstract: NMFS issues a proposed rule that would authorize formation of a recreational quota entity (RQE) that could participate in the Pacific Halibut and Sablefish Individual Fishing Quota Program in International Pacific Halibut Commission Regulatory Areas 2C and 3A in the Gulf of Alaska. The RQE would be authorized to purchase and hold a limited amount of commercial halibut quota share that would yield additional pounds of recreational fishing quota on an annual basis to augment the amount of...

DATES: Submit comments on or before November 17, 2017.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kurt Iverson, 907–586–7228.