Thursday, December 26, 2019

Halibut charter operators brace for more cuts in 2020

Elizabeth Earl
For the Journal
Post date:
Wed, 12/18/2019 - 10:25am

"The continued decline of Pacific halibut stocks in Alaska’s waters is putting increasing pressure on the charter fleets in Southcentral and Southeast as they try to attract clients.

Though the International Pacific Halibut Commission has yet to formally decide on catch limits for the various sectors, survey data discussed at the commission’s interim meeting in November indicates that catch limits are likely to go down to keep the stock within acceptable limits in the future. The Gulf of Alaska is down in particular, with fishermen there facing more restrictions in the future to maintain a healthy stock.

"Because the council won’t know what the sector allocations are until the first week of February, when the IPHC will meet in Anchorage, the council recommended a progressive set of recommendations for the charter fleet that become more restrictive as the catch limit goes down.

"In Area 2C, which covers Southeast Alaska, the measures begin with instituting a reverse slot limit with an upper limit fixed at longer than 80 inches and a lower limit increasing until the allocation is reached, and progress to closing some Wednesdays and decreasing the lower size limit until the allocation is reached.

"In Area 3A, which covers the central Gulf of Alaska, the situation is different because there isn’t as much information available to analyze what could be done to decrease the charter fleet harvest. Until more information is available, the council recommended maintaining status quo management measures with the addition of closed Tuesdays throughout the year and reducing the size of the second allowed fish on charter boards from 28 inches to 26 inches or less."

Read More at the Alaska Journal of Commerce

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Alaska Charter Association Membership

The Alaska Charter Association recognizes those businesses that have contributed their valuable support to the effort for the 2020 season.

If you do not see your business on this list, please let us know and we will sign you up:

Every holiday season we renew our memberships and it can sometimes slip your mind when it's time to pitch in and pay your annual dues. 

The dues are used to keep track of ongoing regulations, threats to our fisheries, and it helps defray the expense of traveling to the public meetings when you can't make it. Do yourself a favor and be a part of this.

Many lodges also enroll their hired guides and skippers in an Associate membership. It's a great way to keep staff informed of the management issues and add to your contribution to the ACA.

Make sure they're on the ACA mailing list and they will receive every monthly newsletter. It's their fishery too! Many young guides have no idea how Alaska's fisheries are managed and how they can play a role in improving our success. Get 'em started early.

Captain Jimmy Akana

Lost in Alaska Adventures LLC

Anglers Lodge AK

Captain Greg's Charters

Saltwater Safari Company

D & G Charters

Kodiak Adventures Lodge

Waterfall Resort

Daniel's Personalized Guide Service

Sportsman's Cove Lodge

Kodiak Island Charters

Bottom Line Charters

Alaska's Boardwalk Lodge

Maverick Charters

Ninilchik Charters

Dakota Ocean Charters LLC


Miller's Landing Inc.

Moore Charters LLC

Hill Norvell Ak Fishing

Doc Warner's Alaska Fishing

Chinook Shores, Inc

Alaska Premier Charters

Shelter Lodge

Monday, December 9, 2019

North Council Decisions for 2020 Halibut Regulations

North Council Decisions for 2020 Halibut Regulations
More Analysis Needed for Unprecedented Cuts to Charter Halibut Regulations
As we reported in the last issue of the Alaska Charter News, the new stock assessment for Pacific Halibut from the International Pacific Halibut Commission reflected a steep decline in the resource available to directed fisheries, especially in Area 3A.

New research produced a startling fact about the commercial longliner catch: 90% of the landings are females.

This did not come as a surprise as processors pay a premium for larger halibut, which tend to be female.

As a result of feeding this "new" info into the stock assessment, 3A suffered a recalculation of past fishing intensity and the need to scale back fishing intensity to fit the new modeling of the stock.

While a 46% Spawning Recruitment Ratio (SPR46, or the old "Blue Line") was a historic reference point we tried to maintain, we were actually fishing at closer to an SPR40 (higher intensity).

Adjusting for this new reference point shifted the coastwide target removals from historically being around 40 Mlbs. to now being 31.9 Mlbs. at SPR46. So the halibut stock size is relatively stable, but the reference points that guide our harvest decisions has shifted.

As a result, Area 2C and 3A sport harvest allocations are facing drastic reductions for 2020, as much as 25% in Area 3A and 21% for Area 2C.

The Charter Halibut Committee struggled with arriving at recommendations for meeting the new reference point of 1.2 million pounds in 3A. While the recommendations for 2C were adopted by the Committee, they requested more analysis on additional measures and more time to consider them.

Here is the Charter Halibut Committee Report. It reflects the discussion by the Committee on both 2020 Halibut Options and the Unguided Rental Boat agenda item.

The Council heard an impressive amount of quality public testimony from the charter industry, and decided to delay a final decision until the February meeting. There will be additional analysis by staff and more time for our industry to make a final choice.

Several Council members praised the testimony of the stakeholders in the charter industry who showed up and testified in person. Following the twists and turns of the Council process can be frustrating hard work, but charter captains, lodge owners and members of the fishing public all gave powerful testimony.
Council Adopts Options for 2C:
"In Area 2C – A progression of management measures in the following order:

  1. A reverse slot with an upper limit fixed at O80, and a lower limit raised until the
  2. allocation is reached, but no lower than U40; Yield 0.772 million pounds.
  3. If the allocation is insufficient to maintain at least a U40 on the lower limit, add Wednesday closures beginning on September 9th and work consecutively toward the beginning of the season until a lower limit of U40 is reached; Yield 0.658 million pounds.
  4. If a lower limit of U40 can’t be reached after closing all Wednesdays, add a 4-fish annual limit in addition to closing all Wednesdays, and use any unused allocation to increase the lower limit above U40 until the allocation is reached; Yield 0.646 million pounds.
  5. If a lower limit of U40 can’t be reached by closing all Wednesdays and adding a 4-fish annual limit, reduce the annual limit to 3 fish in addition to closing all Wednesdays, and use any unused allocation to increase the lower limit above U40 until the allocation is reached; Yield 0.615 million pounds.

If the allocation is not reached, decrease the lower limit below U40 until the allocation is reached; Yield 0.599 million pounds at U39.
If an annual limit is adopted in Area 2C, implement a requirement for charter anglers to record, immediately upon retaining a halibut, the date, location (IPHC area), and species (halibut) on their harvest record, consistent with the current reporting requirement in Area 3A."
Council Decisions on 3A:

"In Area 3A the preliminary recommendation is:

Status quo TCEY. Maintain status quo management measures, except:
  1. Closure of Tuesdays throughout the year; and
  2. Reduce size of a second fish from 28” to 26” or less;

Yield 1.696 million pounds.

For Reference TCEY, additional information needs to be provided to propose management measures to meet the harvest goal of 1.24 million pounds.

The Council requests that ADF&G staff analyze a wider range of management measure options to include combining day of the week closures and reverse slot limits to achieve harvest goals specified by the IPHC. The committee will be allowed to make a recommendation, based on that analysis, in the form of a publicly noticed teleconference taking place prior to the Council’s February 2020 meeting and the IPHC’s 2020 Annual Meeting. The Council intends to review and adopt the Committee’s recommended management measures at the February 2020 meeting."
Council Votes Against Unguided Rental Boat Registration
Responding to public testimony from the charter industry, the Council did not adopt any of the rental boat registration alternatives which included aligning the bag limits with those of guided anglers.

Staff pointed out many difficulties with collecting useful data with any boat registration alone. There was support from the public - even from lodges in 2C that rent boats to clients - for some kind of annual registration to collect more information about this "sector" because it's hard to oppose more data and information.

Yet the staff pointed out that a lot of work needed to be done if useful catch data would be collected, and two of Alaska's largest charter boat trade associations, ACA and SEAGO, questioned the cost-benefit ratio of the proposal.

The ACA board of directors had a full discussion of this proposal. Board members represent businesses that rent boats and charter fish too. ACA members include businesses that rent boats at their lodge, members who have a single charter boat, some rent and charter both.

After listening to the staff analysis of the proposal, not many Council members were enthusiastic about it.

Here is the motion, passed unanimously -

"The Council takes no further action at this time. The Council requests that staff coordinate with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Region, and recreational stakeholders to explore alternative non-regulatory methods to quantify the number and geographic scope of non-guided rental boat activities in recreational halibut fisheries off Alaska."

Friday, November 15, 2019

We Have a Winner! Client Membership Prize Drawing - 40,000 Alaska Air Miles

Congrats to Leslie Kikuta from Hawaii, for his support of the Alaska Charter Association. The ACA started a new program for guided anglers and charter fishing clients with a drawing for 40,000 Alaska Air Miles for one of the new members. They get a newsletter to keep guided anglers informed and engaged in the latest on Alaska’s fisheries.  

ACA Client Membership Drive aims to include the anglers who choose to access their fisheries on a professional charter vessel operation. We’ll need their engagement for developing the RQE quota pool. 2019 was a good start and we’ll be growing this angler base in 2020. 

Membership is affordable and an easy way to stay in touch with Alaska's fisheries.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Guided Angler Halibut Catch Data for 2019 Released

AKDFG has released the catch data from the 2019 season.

We've posted the files with the report on our main web page.


Friday, October 18, 2019

October: Time to Show Your Support for Alaska Charter Association

Each year in October, ACA members old and new renew support for the statewide recreational charter fishing organization bringing you news and keeping managers on their toes.

Member Benefits Include:

  • Timely updates on regulations
  • Link promoting your business
  • Funding the Reps who travel to meetings when you can't
  • Monthly Newsletter
  • Strength in Numbers and Statewide Reach
  • Decision-makers hear a consistent voice for our industry
  • Members-Only Info Page at
  • Voting Rights on Board Elections
  • Advance notice of potential threats to our fisheries

Charter Fishing Factsheet by the Numbers

Guided Fishing for Halibut in Alaska:
Charter Fishing Factsheet by the Numbers

Number of Charter Halibut Businesses in Alaska:

  • Southcentral Alaska: 269
  • Southeast Alaska: 227

Estimated Number of Recreational Anglers who enjoyed a trip for halibut in Homer on Charter Fishing Boats this year: 
Thirty-five Thousand.

In 2011, heavy restrictions on charter fishing for halibut were placed these anglers and businesses. On the Kenai Peninsula, the total economic output from the charter fishery to the local economy at that time was $248 million.

In 2015, limited entry, reduced charter fleet size, and lack of fishing opportunity for guided anglers reduced demand for trips, and sapped the economic output to the state’s economy and tax base:

Losses during that period include:
  • $7.3 million less state and local taxes
  • $23 million less wages for employees
  • $26 million less household income

In 2007, anglers took 151,646 trips for halibut in South-central, declining to 107,835 in 2018

Days open to guided halibut fishing were reduced as much as 2 days a week, and less fish were caught per trip on average because of new fishing restrictions: 

  • 2007: 1.7 halibut per angler/trip
  • 2018: 1.25 halibut per angler/trip

SourcesMeasuring economic contributions of the marine recreational charter fishing sector using a resampling approach , pre-publication  by Daniel K. Lew * and Chang K. Seung for NOAA and Final 2017 Sport Halibut Harvest Estimates for Areas 2C and 3A, Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Charter Industry Reps Testify on Impacts of Trawl Bycatch on Alaskan Economy

Captain Greg Sutter, past President of the Alaska Charter Association, provides public testimony to the Advisory Panel of the NPFMC 

The North Council met at Land's End Resort in Homer. Charter Captains from around the state asked the Council for strong limits on by catch in trawl fisheries in the Bering Sea in the "Abundance Based Management" process.

Industry Reception for North Council Attendees Huge Success!

The Alaska Charter Association cohosted an industry reception for attendees of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Homer. Co-hosts North Pacific Fisheries Association and the Under 60' Cod Harvestors helped us organize the event, and we are grateful to all the local businesses and fishing associations sponsoring the food and refreshments at the well-attended event. Over 200 people enjoyed locally produced seafood and shared notes on the council process.

Special Thanks to the staff at Land's End Resort for serving top-notch seafood to the gathering!


Thursday, October 17, 2019

With new permit, Hilcorp can now blast seismic air guns at night

"Hilcorp may now blast seismic air guns at night in lower Cook Inlet. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a modified permit Friday, allowing the company to explore for oil and gas after the sun sets."

Read more:

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Hilcorp holds Homer meeting on seismic testing; questions and comments get heated

"A public meeting last Friday night on Hilcorp Alaska LLC’s plan to start seismic testing in lower Cook Inlet moved from information to indignation as some people asked pointed questions and someone blew an air horn.

"About 100 people attended the meeting at Land’s End Resort held by the oil and gas company to discuss its plan to do a seismic survey this fall in about 200-square-miles of federal waters near Homer. On Aug. 14, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced it had approved a permit for Hilcorp to do geophysical exploration of 14 federal Outer Continental Shelf leases Hilcorp acquired in 2014."

Read more at the Homer News site.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Sail-drones to Help NOAA Survey Fish Stocks

"The ocean is vast, and fish swim.

"These are challenges for scientists who need to find out when, where, and how many, fish are found in Alaska’s marine waters. They also want to know which species and what ages are found there—all information essential to managing Alaska’s valuable commercial fisheries sustainably.

"Recent advances in autonomous vehicle and fish finders or echosounder (sonar) technology may help overcome those challenges. A new NOAA Fisheries study demonstrates that unmanned surface vehicles can expand the range and duration of ship-based acoustic fish surveys.

“This opens a window in time and space that we didn’t have using ships alone,” said Alex De Robertis, the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center scientist who led the study. “Ship-based surveys are limited because they are short, and mostly done in summer—we don’t know what happens the rest of the time. Our results show that oceangoing robots such as saildrones now make autonomous long-term acoustic measurements possible.”
Read more here.

Hilcorp clears some regulatory hurdles to conduct a seismic survey in lower Cook Inlet

"Oil and gas development company Hilcorp is planning to survey an offshore lease site in lower Cook Inlet. This survey is looking for untapped oil and gas deposits it could develop near Anchor Point and Homer.

The Texas energy company had originally hoped to conduct the roughly 45-to-60 day survey earlier this year. However, due to concerns about the effect of the survey during the fishing season as well as permitting delays, its plans were pushed back.

Hilcorp still needs a permit from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. But on Tuesday, the regulator released an environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact. The bureau said the seismic survey, roughly 370 square miles, would have negligible effects on marine life and birds.

In a related development, NOAA announced provisions last week allowing Hilcorp’s proposed oil and gas activities across Cook Inlet. The authorization says its aim is to minimize harm to marine mammals over the next five years. Read more here at

"This Week in Bycatch"

Kudos to J. Lockwood and KBBI public radio in Homer, Alaska, for this weekly report on by catch in Alaska's fisheries.

Click here to see the weekly report.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

What's it Worth?

Measuring economic contributions of the marine recreational charter fishing sector using a resampling approach

- by Daniel K. Lew and Chang K. Seung

Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management Division, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115, USA

LAST MONTH we linked to an article by journalist Craig Medred who investigated the value of Alaska's recreational charter fishing fleet.

As Medred reported, NOAA Fisheries sent out a press release describing their work on showcasing the economic contribution of sportfishing.

NOAA outlined the dollar value of the charter industry in Alaska but few details were provided.

Now we have received the advance copy the underlying economic study conducted by Dan Lew and Chang Seung. It's a technical paper and dense reading. They've put together a time series of economic data over the years when we've gone through some severe restrictions in the guided halibut fishery.

Now it should be possible to tease out the economic effects of regulatory changes over the past few years.

Due to copyright issues we can't share the full report at this time. Some highlights from the report:
  • The authors developed a way to look at the value of the charter fleet over a period of several years, showing how restrictions to the sector have resulted in declines in revenue to the state of Alaska. 
  • The study develops a new method to predict more accurately the economic impact of specific regulatory changes, as we manage future seasons. 
  • Total charter fishing industry output declined from 2011, when the Halibut Catch Sharing Plan was implemented, to 2012 by more than 100 million dollars.
  • Total output in for Alaska's charter fleet 2011 was $248 million, and climbed back up in more recent years to $166 million in 2015. 
  • Not in the report, but included here for comparison, in 2013 the commercial directed halibut fishery landed five times the amount of halibut with an ex-vessel value of $115 million. Of course there are other revenues associated with these commercial landings - but even so: is the state of Alaska receiving full value for these fish by restricting access to halibut for guided anglers?

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Incidental Take Authorization: Hilcorp Alaska LLC Oil and Gas Activities in Cook Inlet, Alaska

NOAA Fisheries, upon request from Hilcorp Alaska LLC (Hilcorp), hereby issues regulations to govern the unintentional taking of marine mammals incidental to oil and gas activities in Cook Inlet, Alaska, over the course of five years (2019-2024). These regulations, which allow for the issuance of Letters of Authorization (LOA) for the incidental take of marine mammals during the described activities and specified timeframes, prescribe the permissible methods of taking and other means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact on marine mammal species or stocks and their habitat, as well as requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such taking. In accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, as amended, and implementing regulations, notification is hereby additionally given that a LOA has been issued to Hilcorp to take marine mammals incidental to oil and gas activities.

(Read more here.)

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Trump Administration Appoints Campbell & Kimball to North Council

We are pleased to hear the administration agreed with the Alaska Charter Association's nominations for appointments to the North Council.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council includes members from Alaska and Washington.

2019 appointees will fill two obligatory seats for Alaska.

Obligatory seats:

Cora J. Campbell (Alaska)

Nicole S. Kimball (Alaska)

Homer in October: We Tell the North Council to Reduce By Catch.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council meets in Homer, Alaska at Land's End Resort the first week of October.

Trawl by catch is on the agenda and the Alaska Charter Association is partnering with the North Pacific Fisheries Association and the Homer Charter Association to organize public comment.

We'll be there and would like to hear from any charter operators or halibut anglers who want to speak up on the issue of trawl by catch of Pacific halibut and salmon.

The North Council will have a block room rate available for attendees, at the Land's End Resort and Best Western Bidarka, where the Advisory Panel will meet. The Council and staff will be at Land's End.

Even if you can't make it, there will be opportunity for public comment in writing. The Council makes it easy to do online. The documents and agenda will be posted soon, and we'll let you know when that's available.

See you in Homer- for details about the meeting visit the North Pacific Fishery Management Council website for the meeting agenda, documents and online comment form.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

It adds up to 7 million pounds of halibut this year

Shout out to Alaska Public Radio and all the local stations that keep us up to date on commercial and recreational fishing news.

Here's an example of one story about halibut bycatch in the trawl fishery. (Other fisheries too, but the bulk is discarded dead in the trawl fishery.)

Spoiler: it was a lot. Seven million pounds. Jeff Lockwood from reports:

"This Week in Bycatch - June 18"

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

NOAA Estimates $85 million loss to Alaska economy after Quota Grab from Charter Anglers

Craig Medred writes...

Or in other words, Alaska lost $85 million per year in tourism business after the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC), a federal entity dominated by commercial fishing interests, shifted quota from the charters to the commercial fishery in the years after 2011.


Monday, June 3, 2019

NOAA: Engaging with Recreational Anglers Is a Top Priority

From NOAA Fisheries Administrator Chris Oliver:

National Fishing and Boating Week marks a fun and informal start to summer for me and many of us at NOAA Fisheries. During my 27 years in Anchorage, it was the start of a few short months of non-stop fishing with family and friends during long summer days.

As Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Fishing and Boating Week gives me a chance to highlight some of the great work our agency and partners are doing to promote sustainable recreational fishing and boating. For example, during the Miami Boat Show this past February, Fisheries and NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries entered a formal partnership with the National Marine Manufacturers Association, Recreational Fishing and Boating Foundation, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and American Sportfishing Association. Over the next 5 years we’ll be working with these organizations to highlight and expand sustainable recreational saltwater fishing and boating opportunities, as well as marine ecosystems across the nation.

To kick off National Fishing and Boating Week 2019, NOAA Fisheries is releasing six region-specific saltwater recreational fisheries engagement plans highlighting where and how our agency will be working to better engage fishermen. Activities include everything from roundtable meetings to on-the-water events. Some of the activities our regional offices will undertake this year include: co-hosting fishing events for kids and veterans, collaboratively surveying fish populations with for-hire fishing boat operators, helping to train potential future fishery management council members, and conducting workshops with anglers to understand how regulatory changes might improve life on the water.

While our regional offices were developing engagement plans, our national recreational fisheries team joined with the Office of Habitat Conservation to identify and fund habitat restoration projectsfor recreationally important species of fish in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alaska. These projects will get underway in 2019 and directly include anglers in hands-on restoration work. They also developed a partnership with the Bristol Bay Fly Fishing Academy to teach local youths about ecology, fisheries science, and habitat conservation, while teaching valuable guiding skills that support local employment in southwest Alaska.

Fisheries’ great work supporting sustainable recreational fishing is only one facet of the support NOAA provides anglers. Wherever you fish in our coastal and ocean waters, NOAA’s tide tables, navigational charts, sea surface temperature data, weather radio, and forecasts provide critical information to help you find the bite and get you safely to and from your favorite fishing spot.

I encourage you to start your summer with a fishing trip during National Fishing and Boating Week 2019, and I’ll see you out on the water.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Fourth dead gray whale to wash up in Alaska spotted on the Kenai Peninsula

Alaska Daily News: Tegan Hanlon, Madeline McGee
A gray whale has been found dead on the coast of the Kenai Peninsula near Clam Gulch, the fourth to wash up in Alaska so far this year.
A team of marine mammal biologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration arrived Monday to conduct a necropsy on the whale, which was first spotted May 22 by a family fishing nearby for herring, said Julie Speegle, a spokeswoman for NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region.
The tide hasn’t yet abated enough to allow access to the whale, which Speegle said is only visible at low tide. Biologists believe it is a young male, she said.