Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Partisanship shouldn’t undermine our fisheries

Rep. Don Young:

FAIRBANKS — Partisan rancor may be standard operating procedure for most of Washington, but let’s not allow it to unravel the progress we’ve made for our country’s vital fisheries. As my colleagues and my state know, I’ve been on the frontlines for the fight for our fisheries for over 40 years — and I have no intentions of letting up. After creating an initial framework, former Rep. Studds and I collaborated with former Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Warren Magnuson (D-WA) to enact the original Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) in 1976.


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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Alaska Charter Assn Proposal to Board of Fish: Allow Friends and Family to Fish Subsistence Together

The Alaska Charter Association submitted a request to change regulations to Subsistence Fishing today. 

Code section:
AAC: 5 AAC 75.077

Issue: Recreational Charter Fishing Passenger Vessels and Subsistence Fishing.

Under current rules, Federal regulation states that “once a charter vessel is registered with the ADFG, only the vessel owner and/or immediate family may be on board the vessel while subsistence fishing for halibut." Many charter boat owners with SHARC cards would like to take friends with cards as well. The problem is that many family members with SHARC cards may be unable to fish, and friends with SHARC cards may not have a safe vessel to use to provide their winter pack of halibut. Using multiple vessels when a charter boat is available is inefficient, wasteful and presents serious safety concerns. There is no similar prohibition of friends fishing subsistence on commercial vessels; this would provide parity and fairness to make the change we are proposing.

We propose to allow charter vessels to de-register their vessels in the winter and then re-register them the next spring, to conform with federal rules and still be able to take family AND friends with SHARC cards to subsistence fish. Friends can help out on the trip when family is unable or unavailable to make a trip.

Changing federal regulations to allow for this fix would be much more cumbersome and time consuming, and as the state registers the vessels, this seems like a more direct solution. Without this change, charter boat owners and their friends will be denied safe access to their subsistence rights. THANK YOU for your serious consideration of our proposal, and thanks for all you do! - The Alaska Charter Association. 

Solution:

We propose a simple fix to allow Charter Vessels to be de-registered prior to the end of the year, and then re-registered with ADFG the following calendar year to allow for the vessel owners to bring friends for subsistence fishing. Here is our proposed draft language to 5 AAC 75.077:

Web link for 5 AAC 75.077 is:  http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/aac.asp#5.75.077

(Proposed additions to the code are Bolded and Underlined.)

(a) Before being used to provide sport fishing guide services, a vessel must be registered annually with the department. A business owner, or the owner's authorized agent, shall register each individual vessel operated by the business to provide sport fishing guide services by completing a form provided by the department. At the time of registration, the business owner, or the owner's authorized agent, must provide the current division of motor vehicles boat registration number, issued under 2 AAC 70, or the current United States Coast Guard vessel documentation number of each vessel being registered. 

(b) A person may not engage in sport fishing guide services from a powered or unpowered vessel unless the vessel is registered under (a) of this section and displays a sport fishing guide vessel decal with a current annual sticker issued by the department as follows: 
  • (b)(1) upon initial registration of a vessel, two sport fishing guide vessel decals will be issued by the department for that vessel; one decal must be securely affixed on each side of the vessel and must be displayed in plain view at all times the vessel is used to provide sport fishing guide services; 
  • (b)(2) for the years following the year of initial registration of a vessel, two current year renewal stickers will be issued by the department for that vessel; one current year renewal sticker must be securely affixed on each decal over the previous year renewal sticker and must be displayed in plain view at all times the vessel is used to provide sport fishing guide services. 
  • (b)(3) De-registration of a sport fishing guide vessel is allowed prior to Dec. 31st. This would be permanent for the rest of the year and vessel could not be registered to sport fish charter guided anglers again until after Dec. 31st, of current year. [OR see (e)]
(c) If a decal or current year renewal sticker is lost or damaged, a replacement must be obtained from the department and affixed and displayed as required in this section before the vessel is used to provide sport fishing guide services.
(d) A float tube used to provide sport fish guide services is exempt from the registration and decal requirements of this section. For the purposes of this subsection, "float tube" means a tubular floating device designed to support one person in the water and propelled only by power from the arms or legs of the operator.
(e) De-registration of a sport fishing guide vessel is allowed prior to Dec. 31st. This would be permanent for the rest of the year and vessel could not be registered to sport fish charter guided anglers again until after Dec. 31st, of current year. 

Name: Alaska Charter Association
Address: POB 478
City: Homer
State: AK
Zip Code: 99603

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

USA Today: Go fish: Under President Trump, changing political tide opens water for anglers

WASHINGTON – President Trump is known for hitting the golf course, but his administration is now putting the power of the presidency behind another favorite American pastime: fishing.

During his little more than a year in office, the president has promoted the iconic, multibillion-dollar recreational fishing industry that felt marginalized under the previous administration. Barack Obama routinely sided with environmental advocates concerned about long-term damage from overfishing, but Trump, the father of two avid anglers, has tacked in a new direction.

Go fish: Under President Trump, changing political tide opens water for anglers

Federal Register: Halibut Catch Sharing Plan Open for Public Comment (due April 19)

The International Pacific Halibut Commission met for a week in January but the Canadian and American sides could not agree on catch limits. It's a confusing legal territory and we have to feel sorry for the staff that is forced to crank out this regulatory sausage. From the summary of the Federal Rule, followed by a link to the full document:

"NMFS is implementing this interim final rule to establish regulations for 2018 Pacific halibut catch limits in the following International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) Regulatory Areas: Area 2C (Southeast Alaska), Area 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska), Area 3B (Western Gulf of Alaska), and Area 4 (subdivided into five areas, 4A through 4E, in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands of Western Alaska).

"This interim final rule revises a catch sharing plan (CSP) for guided sport (charter) and commercial individual fishing quota (IFQ) halibut fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A, revises regulations applicable to the charter halibut fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A, and revises a CSP for the commercial IFQ and Western Alaska Community Development Quota (CDQ) halibut fisheries in Areas 4C, 4D, and 4E. 

"This action is necessary because the IPHC, at its annual meeting, did not recommend new catch limits or specific CSP allocations and charter management measures for Areas 2C, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, and 4E for 2018, and the 2017 IPHC regulations are in effect until superseded. This interim final rule is necessary because immediate action is needed to ensure that halibut catch limits, charter halibut fishery management measures, and CSP allocations are in place at the start of the commercial IFQ and CDQ halibut fishery on March 24, 2018, that better protect the declining Pacific halibut resource. 

"This action is intended to enhance the conservation of Pacific halibut and is within the authority of the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to establish additional regulations governing the taking of halibut which are more restrictive than those adopted by the IPHC.

Effective March 19, 2018, through December 31, 2018. Comments must be received by April 19, 2018.

Open Comments on the Federal Halibut Catch Sharing Plan (Due April 19)

Click Here for the Final Rule.

Enviros Alarmed: "The Rise of the Recreational Fishing Lobby"



"In 1976, when Congress first passed comprehensive legislation to begin managing the nation’s fisheries, its primary goal was to push foreign factory fishing fleets further from U.S. shores.1 At the time—however absurd it seems now—there was no legal mechanism in place to prevent other countries’ vessels from vacuuming out waters as close as 12 nautical miles from shore. On fair days, Russian trawlers could be seen from the beaches of Massachusetts and the rocky coasts of Alaska.

Recreational fishing was an afterthought for federal regulators. The concept of overfishing—defined as taking more fish out of the ocean in a year than the remaining population can replace—was still new, so policymakers did not consider that anglers with rods and reels, primarily casting from the beach or small pleasure boats near shore, could cause ecological damage. In addition, the vast majority of recreational fishing was carried out in state waters, which, in most states, extend to just three nautical miles from shore."

NOAA walks back talk of renegotiating halibut treaty



"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration removed a reference to renegotiating the “Halibut Treaty” between the U.S. and Canada from a press release Wednesday. NOAA issued the release Monday to announce the final regulatory rule for the 2018 halibut season, but later removed the reference."

Click here to read the full story from KBBI Radio in Homer, AK.

Monday, February 5, 2018

SEC. 302. CLARIFICATION OF LOGBOOK AND ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

From Our Friends at NACO:

"We ask that you fax a request yourselves asking to have the House version match the Senate version so that we can do away with this unnecessary burden."

NACO's Letter to Coast Guard 

Re: SEC. 302. CLARIFICATION OF LOGBOOK AND ENTRY REQUIREMENTS.


"The 2010 Coast Guard Authorization Act included a new requirement for USCG Inspected Passenger carrying vessels to provide and keep onboard new logbooks to include a dozen types of entries from maintaining crew working hours to providing injury and damage reports. These logbooks were intended for vessels on an international voyage and travel from an Atlantic to Pacific port but the language was applied to all USCG COI Passenger vessels. The 2010 requirement created an unnecessary and burdensome regulation for small family business operations and the USCG has yet to implement rulemaking on the 2010 Act."


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Deadlocked: IPHC Fails to Agree on Halibut Catch Limits for 2018

"Worst Meeting Ever," says Commission Chair

ACA Board members Richard Yamada and Mike Flores have been in Portland, Oregon all week working at the International Pacific Halibut Commission's annual meeting.

There is a great deal of scientific concern abut the recruitment of juvenile fish into the Pacific Halibut stock. The Science team at the IPHC recommended significant reductions in harvest levels coast-wide. 

The Commission is made up with 3 Canadian representatives along with 3 Americans. There are several advisory boards including one from the processor industry and another from the directed fisheries called the Conference Board. 

Serious Conservation Concerns

Although fishermen are seeing good fishing now, the IPHC's stock surveys show that there is a serious decline in new year-classes of fish. Too much fishing at this point could dig a deep hole and risk "eating the seed corn." 

The Canadians resisted significant reductions despite the serious conservation concerns. They disagreed with the way the IPHC "apportions" or allocates fish between countries and regions. 

Six major commercial and recreational fishing associations, including the ACA, recommended taking the advice of the scientists and biting the bullet before it bites us. The Conference Board majority adopted recommended measures that are predicted to have a 93% chance of even lower stock levels next year. Canada sought catch levels for its fishermen that have a 99% chance of lower levels next year.

Sean McManus, of the Deep Sea Fishermens Union, warned against too much fishing pressure. "The fishermen who support higher levels of fishing than recommended aren't going to be around to take responsibility when the stock collapses. They won't blame themselves, they'll blame you" (the Commission.)

Stalemate

On the last day of the session, the Commission was unable to reach an agreement on the catch limits. When no agreement is reached, the regulations revert to the status quo of last year's regulations. That would cause grave risk to the overall resource, as many fishermen testified in public comment. 

The US agreed to take a reduction that would go halfway down to the science recommendations (which used to be called "The Blue Line.") Emotions were strained and Commissioners seemed near a breaking point on Friday. Canadian Commissioner Ryall made an emotional appeal to increase British Columbia's share of the overall allocation.

If the regulations are not approved by March 24th, according to NMFS Staffer Rachel Baker, the Secretary of Commerce can publish the US-suggested catch limits in the federal register as long as they are lower limits than the status quo (2017) regulations.

US Side Approves US Catch Limits

The Commissioners did set "suggested" catch limits for the charter sector in areas 2C and 3A. Assuming catch limits of 810,000 pounds for 2C and 1.79 million pounds for 3A, the regulations for 2018 would be as follows: 

PLEASE NOTE: THESE REGULATIONS ARE NOT FINALIZED (BUT LIKELY WILL BE):

2C: Reverse slot limit, U38-O80, and a one fish daily bag limit with no annual limit.

3A: One fish any size, second fish 28 inches or less. Four fish annual limit. Vessel and permit trip limits. Closed all Wednesdays, Tuesdays closed July 10 - August 14.

The Commissioners agreed to have a conference call in February. Hopefully they can put a stamp on an agreement. 

Terms of US Commissioners end March 31st. The Trump Administration is expected to make appointments before then. Nominations for the US seats on the Commission are being accepted now.


 

International Pacific Halibut Commission in Session