Published by the Alaska Charter Association, a non-profit organization dedicated "To preserve and protect the rights and resources of Alaska's recreational anglers and to serve as the voice of the marine charter industry on local, state, federal and international issues affecting our industry."
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.
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:
A reverse slot with an upper limit fixed at O80, and a lower limit raised until the
allocation is reached, but no lower than U40; Yield 0.772 million pounds.
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.
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.
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:
Closure of Tuesdays throughout the year; and
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."