Wednesday, October 21, 2020

SECTION 12005 CARES ACT RELIEF FOR FISHERIES PARTICIPANTS










We received notice from the state that the public comment period for the draft Spend Plan for disaster relief to fisheries in Alaska has been extended: 


NOTICE - PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED 


SECTION 12005 CARES ACT RELIEF FOR FISHERIES PARTICIPANTS  

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has released the Section 12005 CARES Act relief funding draft spend plan for public comment. 

Public comments will be accepted until 6:00 pm (AKST) October 23, 2020. Please submit comments to dfg.com.caresact@alaska.gov

For additional information and resources regarding the CARES Act and COVID-19, see the Department's website for all CARES Act related information www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=hottopics.main

Contacts: 

Kari Winkle, (907) 465-6141, dfg.com.caresact@alaska.gov 
Rachel Hanke, (907) 465-6137, rachel.hanke@alaska.gov 

The relevant section of the Plan for Sportfishing Sectors is attached here:

Sport Fishing Charter Sector 

Must target marine or anadromous species 

  • Must be registered with the ADF&G as a guide, a business, or both for 2020
  • Lodge operators must offer guide services if they do not hold the guide/operator combined registration
  • Must be able to calculate average annual gross revenue from the eligible fishery business for 2015-2019

Applicants operating less than 5 years are eligible but must have operated in 2018 and 2019. Use years in operation to calculate average annual gross revenue 

Applicants must be able to document a greater than 35% loss when comparing March 1, 2020 – November 1, 2020 gross revenue to average annual gross revenue from 2015-2019 (or for years available) 

Payment calculation: eligible applicants holding a guide or operator registration will receive one share of available funds. Applicants with a guide/operator combined registration will receive two shares, see Table 3 below. Once all applications have been received, shares will be determined and payments for applicants will be calculated accordingly. 

Special considerations: businesses shall receive one additional half share (0.5) per guide employed and/or subcontracted. If you are registered as a combined guide/business, you do not get an additional half share for yourself. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Survey for Alaska Charter Operators: Post Season Covid-19 Impacts & Outlook




We just posted an online survey for charter businesses in Alaska. We have done similar surveys and your responses helped win relaxed halibut charter regs and with making a case for disaster relief during the pandemic. 

This survey is for Alaska Charter Operators only.

The survey just takes a few minutes and is confidential. We're trying to gauge the financial impact of the pandemic, the travel mandates and loss of business. This helps when we talk to legislators and fishery managers about where we go from here.

Click here to take the survey.

Thank you,


Jim Martin

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

NOTICE OF SPECIAL PUBLIC MEETING OF THE ALASKA BOARD OF FISHERIES



NOTICE OF SPECIAL PUBLIC MEETING OF THE ALASKA BOARD OF FISHERIES


Notice is given that the Alaska Board of Fisheries (board) will hold a teleconference on Wednesday, September 16, 2020, from 2:30 – 4:30pm. The purpose of this special meeting is for the board to consider its 2020/2021 regulatory meeting schedule in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

This is a non-regulatory meeting. The board will not take oral public testimony during the teleconference. A live audio stream of the meeting is intended to be available on the Board’s website, which can be accessed at www.boardoffisheries.adfg.alaska.gov. Listen-only teleconference sites will not be provided given the need to social distance and avoid large gatherings.
Meeting materials will be posted on the Department of Fish and Game, Boards Support Section website here: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo&date=09-16-2020&meeting=tele. For information about the meeting or meeting materials, contact the Boards Support Section at (907) 465-4110.

The board previously accepted public comment from July 22 through August 31, 2020. However, additional written public comment may be submitted through September 11. Public comment received on or before this deadline will be posted on the Board’s meeting page prior to the meeting. Public comment may be submitted through one of the following means –
mailed to Boards Support Section, P.O. Box 115526, Juneau, AK 99811-5526,
emailed to dfg.bof.comments@alaska.gov, or
faxed to (907) 465-6094.

If you are a person with a disability who may need a special accommodation in order to participate, please contact the Boards Support Section at (907) 465-4110 no later than 12:00pm on Friday, September 11 to ensure that any necessary accommodations can be provided.


_____/s/_____________ September 2, 2020

Glenn Haight, Executive Director Date

Alaska Board of Fisheries




Halibut Rollover? Special IPHC Meeting Sept. 17th




IPHC Media Release 2020-027 Invitation to the 8th Special Session of the IPHC (SS08)

02 September 2020

SEATTLE – The IPHC is pleased to invite all interested parties to attend the 8th Special Session of the IPHC (SS08), which will be held on 17 September 2020 from 13:00-16:00 hrs.

The special session is to be held following requests from Canada for in-season regulatory changes as described below:

Commercial and recreational Pacific halibut fishery changes in response to COVID-19 for Area 2B: Commercial and recreational fisheries for Pacific halibut have experienced disruptions to fishing opportunities and markets, and are proposing sector-specific management responses for consideration by DFO and the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). The proposals are:
The commercial fishery is seeking a season extension, changing the closure from 15 November 2020 to 20 February, 2021;
The recreational fishery is seeking an underage carryover provision that would allow 10% of this year’s recreational TAC, if uncaught, to be added to the recreational TAC in 2021.

The meeting will be held via the go-to-meeting platform with a link to be added to the meeting page immediately prior to the session.

SS08 meeting page: https://www.iphc.int/venues/details/8th-special-session-of-the-iphc-ss08

IPHC Secretariat
International Pacific Halibut Commission
2320 W. Commodore Way, Suite 300
Seattle, WA 98199-1287
206-634-1838 | www.iphc.int







Saturday, August 22, 2020

Kodiak fisherman agrees to pay $1 million fine, spend year in prison over false halibut, sablefish reports


From the Alaska Daily News:

"James Aaron Stevens submitted false records for 26 fishing trips from 2014 to 2017 during which he harvested more than 903,000 pounds of fish with a total approximate dock value of more than $4.5 million and an approximate market value of more than $13.5 million, according to a federal indictment filed Friday."

See also: "Why Fuglvog Matters to America"


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Rapid Testing Could be the Key to Reopening

We're hearing from Alaska fishing lodge owners and charter operators about the new rapid test and home testing kits. Guests can order a home testing kit and get results within the time frame required for flying into Alaska.

In case you haven't seen the latest health and travel mandates in Alaska, here they are:


Health Mandate 010: Interstate and International Travel


Updated: August 6, 2020
Expiration: Until Rescinded


Health Mandate 010 gives clear requirements for all travelers arriving in Alaska from another state or country. These new requirements go into effect on Tuesday, August 11, 2020. For more details visit: https://covid19.alaska.gov/travelers


For all travelers (resident and nonresident):
Complete a Travel Declaration Form and Self-Isolation Plan in the Alaska Travel Portal.
All travelers with negative results must still follow strict social distancing for 14 days after arriving into the state or until the traveler receives a second negative test result from a test taken 7-14 days after arrival.
The five-day pretest option is no longer available for any travelers.

For nonresident travelers:
  • Test 72 hours before departure.
  • Upload negative result into the Alaska Travel Portal or have results available to show screeners at the airport.
  • If still awaiting results by arrival time, travelers will need to upload proof of a test taken into the Alaska Travel Portal or show that proof of a test taken to an airport screener and self-quarantine, at their own expense, while waiting for results. The results must be uploaded into the portal when received.
  • If a nonresident arrives without a pre-test, testing is available for $250 per test. The traveler will be required to quarantine while waiting on results.
  • The 14-day quarantine option is no longer available for nonresident travelers.

For Alaska resident travelers:
  • Test 72 hours prior to departure, with the same rules as listed for nonresidents.
  • Testing at arrival remains available at no cost to Alaska residents.
  • The 14-day quarantine option is still available to Alaska residents.
  • Alaska residents traveling within the state will now have the option of free testing at the airport sites, to prevent bringing the virus into our small communities.
  • Proof of Alaska residency can be shown with one of the following:
  • Alaska driver’s license or state issued ID card.
  • Federally recognized Alaska Tribal identification card.
  • Active duty military ID card or active duty dependent ID card.
  • Employment verification letter on employer letterhead or school verification letter for in-person schooling stating traveler is moving to Alaska for employment or school.

There are two FDA-approved home-collection COVID tests:

  1. Pixel system from LabCorp
  2. Everlywell COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on CARES Act response to Fisheries Disaster Relief

Today, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation held a hearing on "Building a Stronger and More Resilient Seafood Sector"

Testimony centered on the results of the CARES Act disaster relief for US fisheries and future needs.

 Witnesses:

  • Ms. Leann Bosarge, Council Member, Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council
  • Ms. Cora Campbell, Council Member, North Pacific Fishery Management Council
  • Dr. Paul Doremus, Deputy Assistant Administrator of Operations, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Mr. Phil Anderson, Chair, Pacific Fishery Management Council

US Senate Passes Bill Authorizing Funding Mechanism for RQE

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Tell the Legislature: Alaskans Lose a Quarter Billion $ if Alaska CARES Grant Program Falls Short


Part of the federal disaster relief funds approved in Congress were direct grants to states to help businesses and their workers to stay afloat during the Lockdown. Alaska was budgeted $290 million.

On June 1st, grant applications opened for the $290M Alaska CARES Grant Program aimed at Alaska businesses who did not receive COVID-19 relief dollars from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) or other federal “loan” programs under CARES Act. 

As of June 29th, only $6.2M of the $290M have been awarded. There were 1,947 applicants and only 167 have been approved. That is, only 2 percent of this disaster relief has reached the businesses and non-profits in this state. 

That means a quarter-billion dollars is sitting on the table during one of the greatest financial and health disasters in our history. Oh, and we could lose it, unless the legislature calls a special session to meet in person and vote on it. They need to fix this mess soon, because the deadline for using these particular funds is drawing near. Snooze and lose? Then that big pile of money goes back to Washington DC.

What could Alaskans do with this money?

  • direct assistance to struggling businesses
  • health care support 
  • grants for purchasing safety gear and sanitizers
  • fisheries research to sustain our businesses
  • grants for promoting travel to Alaska and rebuilding the economy
  • aid to harbor districts and infrastructure

You probably have some ideas yourself. We would rather see dump trucks filled with cash spill money around the state than send a quarter billion back to DC. 

The program aimed for dispersing the majority of the grant money in the first 30 days! The PPP funds ran out in the first week. What happened here? Most businesses received some form of federal assistance already, so they didn’t qualify for these grants.

As a result, the rules put in place by the Alaska State legislature need to be fixed, and fixed fast. 

The ACA has written several letters to the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, requesting they expand the program to include all Alaska small businesses. “The PPP was for our employees and we are grateful for that, but the only businesses relief offered to cover our business losses has come in the form of loans, a debt that will have to be repaid which adds to our already negative balance sheets.”

The ACA testified at a recent Legislative Labor and Commerce Committee meeting to remove the restrictions regarding disqualification based on past federal assistance. To change any of the provisions of the CARES Grant Program, the legislature must reconvene in special session and vote. 

Non-Profit organizations such as the ACA (a trade association) are also currently excluded from applying. As a trade organization made possible through membership dues and considering the financial crisis our industry is facing, support will become more difficult. We are not the only organization in this boat, and many of the local community Chambers of Commerce are organizations with the same status. We asked that 501(c)6 non-profits be allowed to apply for this grant. Businesses that already got loans to cover worker paychecks should also be allowed to apply. 

It’s been a big weekend and now, Monday morning, we need to write, email, fax, or phone all our State Senators and Representatives and ask them to return to Juneau and take care of this urgent matter. They will be "meeting" on Tuesday for another committee meeting over the webcams, but to approve the needed changes there needs to be an in-person vote.

For this kind of money, they need to fly to Juneau.

Here is the webpage to contact your representative in the Alaska State Legislature:

Your message can be this simple: Alaska needs every dime of AK Cares Act grant funding coming to us. The legislature needs to meet and vote!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Economic Data Reporting Trawler Meetings



The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will be holding a series of facilitated stakeholder discussions to explore potential revisions to the four existing Economic Data Reporting (EDR) programs. EDR programs are currently implemented in four fisheries: the BSAI Crab Rationalization program, Amendment 80, GOA trawl fisheries, and the BSAI pollock fishery. The Council and the Council’s Social Science Planning Team ( SSPT) are engaging with fishery participants to develop a strategy to assess and improve EDR collections and improve their usability, efficiency, and consistency while minimizing their cost and burden to industry and the government.

The purpose of the EDR stakeholder discussions is generate input and ideas that can inform the Council’s consideration of potential revisions to the four existing EDR programs. Specifically, these discussions will help focus and inform the SSPT’s development of alternatives for the Council’s consideration. The objectives include:
  1. Discuss the Council’s existing EDR programs, including their objectives, the use of EDR information to support decision-making, and the relationship between the data elements collected, economic performance metrics, and the management questions they can inform.
  2. Generate ideas for improving the usability, efficiency, and consistency of existing EDR programs while minimizing their cost and burden to industry and the government.

These discussions will be held virtually. The date and times are to be determined and will be posted at: https://www.npfmc.org/edr/

The Council hopes to hear from a wide range of perspectives and all those interested are welcome to participate. Contact sarah.marrinan@noaa.gov to be added to the email list.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Relaxed Halibut Regs Approved by Commerce Dept. - Effective Now



Liberalized Halibut Regulations that passed the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the International Pacific Halibut Commission, now passes final regulatory review in DC.

Effectively immediately, regulations are revised for halibut sport fishing from charter vessels in International Pacific Halibut Commission regulatory Areas 2C (Southeast Alaska) and 3A (Southcentral Alaska)

The revised regulations are as follows:

Area 2C:
  • The size limit for retained halibut by charter vessel anglers must be less than or equal to 45 inches or greater than or equal to 80 inches in length.

Area 3A:
  • Charter vessel anglers may keep one fish of any size per day and one fish that is no more than 32 inches in length. 
  • Charter vessel anglers are not subject to an annual limit on the number of halibut they retain. Anglers are no longer required to record halibut caught on charter vessel fishing trips in Area 3A on the back of the fishing license or a harvest record card.
  • Charter vessel anglers may catch and retain halibut on all days of the week. 
  • These revised regulations will remain in effect through the 2020 fishing season.The final rule that implements these regulations is forthcoming and will be published in the Federal Register. In addition to these revised regulations, all other halibut sport fishing regulations remain unchanged. 

The ACA hopes everyone is staying healthy and wishes all a good season under these trying times.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

President Trump Restores Science-Based Fishery Management

    On June 5th, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order that restored 5000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean to sustainable fishing and science-based fishery management.

    Former President Barrack Obama arbitrarily closed large areas of the ocean to fishing and fishery management. Former President George W. Bush also closed the largest “marine protected area” off Hawaii and also used the Antiquities Act to strip fishery managers of their legal authority to make decisions about when, where and why areas should be closed to fishing.

    Trump’s Executive order does not change any designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monuments or any protections, it simply lifted the “permanent” ban on commercial fishing in those monuments. Rare species, marine mammals and sea turtles continue to enjoy protection under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Marine Mammal Act, and a fortress of federal legislation that protects our oceans.

    This action is consistent with Trump’s stated policy of ending and reversing decades of double-deals and job-crippling regulations.

    With a pen-stroke, President Obama declared these National Monuments to No Fishing. He bowed to anti-fishing nonprofits (the ones who raise money by advocating total bans on fishing to “protect” the sea creatures they have seen only in cartoons.) 

    Presidents can decree no-fishing zones under the Antiquities Act and skip over the chore of consulting with anybody affected by the fishing regulation.  It's a bad idea because there is no buy-in from fishermen who use the area and can be undone with another pen-stroke. There is a public process, established by Congress, to make fishing regulations called "Fishery Management Councils" -- but that takes time and effort. 

    Fishing closures by area, by season and gear type are all traditional and useful tools in the federal fishery management system. Sometimes it’s necessary to close spawning grounds, or protect an area seasonally to save the seed corn for future fish harvest.

    The fad of creating areas of the ocean that are closed permanently to all fishing disrupts the ability of fish managers to be flexible and use the best available science to ensure the protection of all marine species.

    Goofy grifters run amok in California. Under the direction of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, he closed up to 40% of the prime fishing grounds used by recreational anglers.

    Imagine losing your most productive fishing grounds to a raffle fundraiser for groups that hate fishing. 

    That's why it's good news that the Trump Administration restored the management of fisheries in these National Monuments to the Fishery Management Councils. It might give pause to future Presidents seeking to polish their legacies in the waning months of their terms.

    If the promoters for no-fishing zones want to pursue it under the Magnuson Stevens Act, they can make their case that "we had to close fishing to save fishing" at the next Council meeting. 

    Some people were upset:
“In another step to reduce environmental regulations, Trump allows commercial fishing in nation’s only marine monument in the Atlantic” - By David Abel Globe Staff, Updated June 5, 2020
"Trump to reopen Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument for fishing"
By Rachel Frazen - 06/05/20

Thursday, June 4, 2020

F&G Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang Answers Questions

Some highlights:


FISH & GAME COMMISSIONER DOUG VINCENT LANG: Fishing is open and no reason not to do it safely- use social distancing.
Spring bear hunting is open now.

Russian River open June 11 - crowded fishery so be careful.

Question about halibut charters - will current limits stay in effect? A: AK led the efforts to review and relax the halibut restrictions on charters - will happen soon but not yet in effect.

State Parks are open with a few closed due to snow etc locally. Bathrooms and bear bins are functional with regular servicing - use hand sanitizer and keep 6-feet separation. Wipe down common use surfaces like tables etc.

QUESTIONS FROM THE PUBLIC:

Q; Will state officials be enforcing quarantine and mandates in the field? A: We are moving away from mandates and focusing on education and social responsibility.

Q: Are tests available on the airport for travelers?A: some, but we are asking people to get tested at home, before traveling to Alaska. 

Guides and charter operators should be working to be safe and educating their clients about the guidelines.


Q: What is the status of UCI personal use fisheries? A: They are kicking off; Kasilof fishery will be open but Kenai city fees are going cashless this year so be prepared for that. 

Q: When will halibut charter regulations be relaxed? A: Worst case is July but  we are hoping that federal managers will get it done sooner than that. Needs to appear in the federal register. Halibut is a difficult situation because it is managed federally and internationally with Canada. 

DLV encouraged residents to use guides and charters to go fish, a real opportunity to get some deals and take advantage of less crowded conditions and perhaps lower prices.

Corrie Feige of DNR cautioned that woodland fires are risky this year because of Covid-19 and the difficulty in staffing fire crews; use caution in running ATVs in grasslands and take measures to prevent forest fires. 




 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Alaska charter operators and lodges say business has evaporated amid the pandemic





"Sportfishing is big business in Alaska. A 2017 study funded by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough determined that out-of-state sportfishermen spend $358 million per year at Alaska stores and businesses in Cook Inlet alone, about as much as in-state fishermen did in the region.

Statewide, the market for tourist-related sportfishing is huge. Last year, nearly 300,000 Alaska visitors bought temporary sportfishing licenses, according to statistics kept by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

An informal poll conducted by the Alaska Charter Association found two-thirds of respondents have seen their bookings fall by at least half. Only 28% said they were confident they will be in business next year."
Read James Brooks' article at the Alaska Daily News here.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

N.Council Emergency Decision on Relaxed Charter Halibut Regulations

The North Council (NPFMC) held an Emergency Meeting today to address critical issues resulting from the pandemic.

The Council voted to approve a request from the charter industry to change 2020 halibut regulations for guided anglers and allow:

In 2C:
  • One fish daily bag limit, slot limit: U45 O80

In 3A:
  • Charter fishing 7 days a week
  • 2 fish daily bag limit, 1 fish any size, 2nd fish 32"or less
  • No annual limit, one charter trip per day

In both areas, the regulations would remain in place through the rest of the season.

It is unclear from the discussion how long the official regulatory processes will take. It involves the state, the feds and the international Halibut Commission. The NMFS representative reported that it might take 5 weeks to enact the change. The Council asked all agencies to act quickly.

The Council considered an option to end the relaxed regs when the travel restrictions were lifted, but rejected that to extend the rules through the rest of the season.

The Council expressed caution about going over the catch limits for 2020, but found little evidence that would happen this season given the extreme circumstances.

Council member Capt. Andy Mezirow made the motion and spoke to the unprecedented nature of the measure and to the extent of the economic distress not only in the charter industry but also the entire Alaskan tourism industry and local communities. The second fish limit of 32" was proposed because of the Council's concern about exceeding the original allocation.

The IPHC has to approve the measures, and it could act fairly quickly. Federal rules take longer, and we will find out more soon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

ACA Supports Relaxed Halibut Charter Regs for 2020




The Alaska Charter Association submitted a letter in support for an emergency rule for relaxing halibut regulations for 2020 in view of the health and travel mandated during the pandemic that have already reduced fishing effort and estimated catch.

The North Council (NPFMC) is holding an Emergency Meeting on May 15 to consider removing some of the restrictions on charter halibut fishing in Alaska for 2020.

You will find everything you need to learn about the options and support with a public comment here.

The deadline for comments to be considered for the special meeting is Thursday, May 14, 2020, at 5:00 pm (Alaska time).


Thursday, May 7, 2020

Congress Asks $3.5 Billion for American Fisheries



Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy,

We write to urge the inclusion of support for the American seafood industry in the next coronavirus relief measure. Our seafood processors and fishermen have been dealt a significant economic blow as a result of coronavirus and are in desperate need of federal assistance.

The seafood industry is critical to local and regional economies across the country. In 2016, the industry supported over one million good-paying jobs and generated more than $144 billion in sales, adding an estimated $61 billion to the nation’s GDP. In addition to the jobs, families, and communities it supports along every part of our country’s coastlines, the seafood industry fuels jobs throughout the country in processing and distribution.

Due to efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has led to a near total shutdown of restaurants and other outlets serving fresh seafood, the supply chain of fishermen and seafood processors has been decimated. Notably, more than 68% of the $102.2 billion that consumers paid for U.S. fishery products in 2017 was spent at food service establishments. It has been reported that many of the nation’s fisheries have suffered sales declines as high as 95 percent. In addition, while many other agricultural sectors have seen a significant increase in grocery sales, seafood has been left out of that economic upside, as stores have cut back on offerings.

We strongly urge you to include in the next coronavirus stimulus package at least $2 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase domestically harvested and processed seafood products and distribute them to local, state, and national non-profits providing food to hungry Americans. Given that few seafood producers have historically participated in USDA commodity purchasing programs, we request that $1 billion be set aside to finance the purchase by USDA of seafood products that have not typically been purchased and that have experienced economic impacts as a result of coronavirus.

We also ask that you include an additional $1.5 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the terms of section 12005 of the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136) in order to provide direct relief to Tribal, subsistence, commercial, and charter fishery participants, impacted by coronavirus. We request that Congress appropriate and permit the Secretary to make funding available as soon as practicable to all fishery participants, including commercial and recreational fishing and seafood businesses that have been impacted by declines in tourism and the closure of restaurants and other food services industries.

The seafood industry is currently facing an unprecedented collapse in demand because of the novel coronavirus. We urge you to facilitate the government purchase of seafood products that would both ensure stability in this key sector and provide healthy, domestically produced food for Americans.

Thank you for your attention to this critical request, and for your continued support of America’s seafood industry.




[signed]

Jared Huffman (D-CA), Garret Graves (R-LA), Steven M. Palazzo (R-MS), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR), the letter was signed by Representatives Suzzane Bonamici (D-OR), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Ed Case (D-HI), David N. Ciciline (D-RI), Charlie Crist (D-FL), Joe Cunningham (D-KY), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Suzan K DelBene (D-WA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Jared Golden (D-ME), Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR), Andy Harris (R-MD), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Denny Heck (D-WA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Pramilla Jayapal (D-WA), William R. Keating (D-MA), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Elaine G. Luria (D-VA), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Gregory F. Murphy (R-NC), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), David Rouzer (R-NC), Donna E. Shalala (D-FL), Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Darren Soto (D-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Gergory Steube (R-FL), Thomas R. Suozzi (D-NY), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Randy K. Weber (R-TX), Robert J. Wittman (R-VA), Ted S. Yoho (R-FL), Don Young (R-AK), Lee Zeldin (R-NY).

Friday, April 24, 2020

Governor Dunleavy Sets New Mandates for Charter Alaska Fishing Operations


Alaska Governor Dunleavy issued new guidelines for safely operating fishing charters this season. The state worked closely with industry on this and we support these efforts.

Even though these rules may not work for every charter fishing business, it is a step in the right direction and an encouraging sign. The state is addressing the need for keeping some economic activities going while reducing health risks significantly.

Read the Alaska mandate for Charter Fishing Vessels here.

Monday, April 20, 2020

NPFMC schedules special meeting via webconference May 15, 2020

May Special Meeting

The Council will meet May 15, 2020, at 12 pm Alaska time, via webconference for a special meeting to review emergency rule requests that have been submitted for Council consideration. The AGENDA is now available. Additional information and details will be added there and on NPFMC.org. It is strongly encouraged to submit comments in writing through links on the Agenda. The deadline for written comments is Thursday, May 14, 2020, at 5:00 pm (Alaska time). If you have questions about the logistics of the meeting or concerns about logging in, please email npfmc.admin@noaa.gov.


AKDFG Fishing Forums to be Hosted Temporarily Online

(Statewide) - The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Division of Sport Fish, will be temporarily moving the monthly fishing forums online beginning this month. The online fishing forums will be available on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game YouTube channel.

Our first online fishing forum titled, “Smoking, Canning, and Pickling Fish” will go through the steps of all three processes, two of which also apply to game meat. This fishing forum will be available Wednesday, April 22, 2020, at 6:05 p.m on YouTube. ADF&G staff will be available to answer any questions in real-time from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the YouTube chat.

Looking to have the most interactive experience possible? Visit the ADF&G-wefishak Facebook page, and join the watch party event at the scheduled date and time above. The link to the YouTube video will be posted in the event after a brief live introduction, and viewers will be encouraged to click that link and watch the video. Questions about the video can be posed in the event discussion during the entire watch party, or on YouTube chat. Questions will be answered as they are received. At 7:30 p.m. after the video concludes, the presenter will go live again and answer any remaining questions and give some additional resources for viewers.

Pending how this delivery method is received, the Division hopes to continue serving our anglers by hosting fishing forums online until they can resume in person again. This is a free event for anyone wishing to watch and ask questions.

For more information, please contact the forum organizer Molly McCarthy-Cunfer at (907) 444-6030.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Alaska tourism businesses expect a lean year ahead

From Alaska Daily News, by Scott McMurren: 
Mike Flores owns Ninilchik Charters, with 12 boats that can accommodate from four anglers to 24. During the summer he runs fishing charters in Seward, in Homer, Ninilchik and on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers.
“We’re not directly affected by the cruise shutdown,” he said, “although some customers do cruise for Alaska and then go fishing with us.“
About 40% of Ninilchik Charters’ business is local. Still, the season will be very different. “We’ve taken all of our bookings for May and June and moved them to 2021,” said Flores. In the meantime, the company is doing upgrades on the fishing boats and building more accommodations at their all-inclusive Soaring Eagle Lodge.
Read the whole article here: 
https://www.adn.com/alaska-life/travel/2020/04/18/alaska-tourism-businesses-expect-a-lean-year-ahead/

Monday, April 13, 2020

ACA Member Proposes Salmon Hatcheries

We received this letter from Rick Dale, a charter operator in Alaska: (sorry about the photo quality!)

Paperwork

From NOAA Fisheries:

In case you're not already aware of it, I want to call attention to the comment period for information collection requirements associated with charter businesses. I attached a copy of the Federal Register that announces the comment period and solicits comments. Comments must be received on or before April 24, 2020.


This notice is part of NMFS's obligations under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The intent of the PRA is to minimize the time, effort, or financial resources needed by the public to generate, maintain, or provide information to the government.


In this case, NMFS is requesting a continuation of the requirements. The current requirements are:

ADFG logbooks
GAF permit report
GAF landing report
GAF / IFQ transfer application
Annual registration of CHP
Transfer application for CHPs
Application for Military CHPs
Appeals


Section III of the attached Notice provides information on the current time burden estimates for these collections. I've also attached a table that provides more estimates that the information requirements are based upon: the average annual number of submissions per person; the time to complete the forms, and miscellaneous costs.


Among other things, you might want to take a look at these estimates and comment on their accuracy. The Notice indicates how you can submit comments on these and other parts of the current data collections.


Please let me know if you have any questions, and please feel free to distribute this notice among your fellow charter operators. If you have any questions, I'm happy to help.


-Kurt


Kurt Iverson
Fishery Management Specialist
National Marine Fisheries Service; Alaska Region
PO Box 21668
Juneau, AK 99802
tel: (907) 586-7210



Friday, March 13, 2020

Poll Results on Coronavirus Impacts on Charter Fishing Industry








Thank you to those that responded to our Coronavirus Poll, recently posted in our Alaska Charter newsletter.

The intent was to gather some information on perceptions and plans surrounding this now classified Coronavirus pandemic. There were 33 responses of which 53% were lodges.

Reactions were mixed regarding whether or not people felt bookings would be affected this summer with 57% saying yes.

It is still early in the game to judge exact impacts, but operators that serve cruise ship passengers definitely feel their businesses will take a hit. Results also are mixed on how this outbreak will impact operations and hiring of staff. Most indicate they will have to increase efforts in sanitation and implement policies regarding dealing with employees and clients that show symptoms of cold or flu if not already addressed in their operations. We will be discussing how operators plan to address issues of self isolation if staff or guests get sick via twitter.

The majority of respondents felt getting supplies this summer will not be a problem. A trip to Costco today may say different, but maybe supplies will catch up before our season starts. Most operators, 79%, are not planning to screen clients for illnesses and only 41% are planning on sending out a pre-arrival notice of how they are planning to address the coronavirus in their operations. This may change as this is a fast evolving situation and ACA will be sending out another poll next month to see if attitudes and plans have changed.

Let us know how you plan to address potential cancellations due to the Coronavirus and tell our community about it by posting a reply to this blog post.

Most travel insurance policies have exclusions for virus related cancellations unless you are diagnosed and in hospital care. These exclusions may also apply to business interruption policies that some operators may have. Check with your insurance provider.

Depending on your deposit and full payment policy deadlines, you may already be facing hard decisions with your loyal and repeat guests. How do you plan to handle this and still keep good relations with your guests?

We would like to hear from you!

Monday, March 2, 2020

Alaska Charter Association Working Committees


At last month's board of director's meeting, ACA moved to form Working Committees to focus on specific areas of concern for all recreational fishermen in Alaska.

Our board, with nine members who volunteer to steer the organization, tracks state and federal legislation, Coast Guard regulations, the Board of Fish, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, the Halibut Commission, State Parks rules, permitting, environmental threats and international allocations of fish.

There's a lot on our plate.

Our association is built with the support of charter operators who collectively hold more than 200 Charter Halibut Permits, and these businesses employ nearly 1000 workers.

ACA is reaching out to our membership across the state to form Working Committees to study upcoming tasks and make recommendations for action to the full board.

To start, we're asking members to consider volunteering for one of the following Committees:

Legislation: the Alaska State House is considering changes to guide licenses and increases in fees; the  federal government is considering changes to the Magnuson Stevens Act that sets the methods for making fishing regulations; we are working on a funding mechanism for the Recreational Quota Entity (RQE). Issues like these need our attention. Our board member Grant Moore has volunteered for this Committee.

Fundraising: Keeping the lights on, providing travel expenses to members who testify at the public hearings, staff to handle the paperwork and public communication - all of this costs money. We have a Gaming Permit and look for ways to ensure the future viability of our industry. Fun fundraisers like raffles, diners and derbies are some of the projects under consideration. We might end up playing a role in the new Homer Halibut Derby!

North Council & Halibut Commission: the rubber hits the road at these two intergovernmental agencies, with the federal rules coming through the North Council and international rules for Pacific Halibut coming through the IPHC. ACA has been pressing the North Council on trawl bycatch and our President, Richard Yamada, is completing his term as the first recreational Commissioner in IPHC history. This promises to be one of the more active working committees. Board member Daniel Donich has served on the Council's Advisory Panel for many years and will serve on this committee as well.

Board of Fish: Politically appointed, with broad power, this board sets policy and approves state fishing regulations for a number of recreational and commercial fisheries.

Each board member will be participating in a Working Committee and the Board will receive reports on their work at each monthly meeting.

With this system, we won't be reacting to the news about things that are too late to change and get in on the ground floor when it matters.

If you have been looking for a way to get more involved with fishery management and help the ACA improve its work, reply in the comments and we'll be in touch.




Thursday, February 27, 2020

Factsheet on Annual Registration of Charter Halibut Permits



NOAA has released a Factsheet on how to register your CHP. If you operate a charter fishing business with a Charter Halibut Permit in Alaska, you need to register annually. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions and answers from NOAA:

HB 218 Passes Alaska State House Fisheries Committee: Guide & Rental Boat Licenses


The Alaska State House Fisheries Committee addressed House Bill 218, which would reauthorize the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's licensing of salt water sport fishing guides and guide operator businesses. A copy of HB 218 is attached.

In the Feb. 20 hearing, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins offered an amendment to HB 218 that would require rental boat owners to register their boats with ADFG if the boats are equipped for salt water sport fishing. Among other things, the amendment would require the persons who use the rental boats to declare whether they engaged in salt water sport fishing during the period when they used the boat. A copy of the amendment is attached.

After committee discussion, Rep. Kriess-Tompkins withdrew the amendment. He indicated his office would continue to work on the amendment to address some of the issues the committee raised, and that he intended to offer it again at a later date as HB 218 moves through other committees.


The unamended HB 218 then passed out of the House Fisheries committee and was forwarded to the House Resources Committee for further consideration. As of today, House Resources has not yet scheduled a hearing for the bill.


More information on HB 218 can be found here:


http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Detail/31?Root=HB%20218#tab1_4

Friday, February 14, 2020

Homer News: "Halibut Charters Get New Regulations"

by Michael Armstrong, Homer News


The guided halibut charter fleet for Area 3A, including Homer, had its allocation set at 1.71 million pounds for the 2020 season at International Pacific Halibut Commission meetings last week in Anchorage. That’s better than some captains had feared, but to err on the side of conservation, the IPHC approved slightly more-stringent regulations recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

“We got the best possible outcome available,” said charter captain Ben Martin of North Country Charters, who is president of the Homer Charter Association. “… I’m coming away with it as a win for us.”

Under the new regulations, guided anglers cannot fish or keep halibut on Tuesdays as well as the current Wednesdays closure. They can still keep two fish per day, with one halibut of any size, but the second fish allowed has been reduced from under the current limit of 28 inches to under 26 inches.


“The potential allocation was lower and would have meant even more restrictive measures,” said Stephen Keith, Assistant Director of the IPHC.

Read more here.



Monday, January 20, 2020

New Study on Economic Value of Charter Sportfishing Sector in Alaska 2017

from: NOAA Fisheries:
Decisions about how to share the catch between recreational anglers and commercial fishermen are always a food fight. Federal law gives the vague guidance that decisions be "fair and equitable" and are based on assigning fish to each sector according to the economic benefit to the nation. 

Many studies have shown that more $ are generated per # of fish caught in the sportfishery.

Yet specific studies of the economic value of each state and each species are hard to come by and allocation decisions often don't look very hard for the data. 

NMFS has finally completed a comprehensive report on the money generated by the recreational charter fishing sector in Alaska, and it could not be more timely.

Looking ahead the North Council will be starting a federally-required review of allocation of halibut between recreational and commercial sectors. 

The data is clear in this fishery and the ACA will be highlighting some of the key findings in this new study, which should inform fishery managers on how to slice the halibut pie. 

We are posting a link at the bottom of this blog post to the complete document and we encourage everyone to review these findings. It is eye-opening.


"Costs, Earnings, and Employment in the Alaska Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Sector, 2017"
by D. K. Lew, and J. Lee

INTRODUCTION

In recent years Alaska’s sport fisheries have undergone substantial changes, particularly in the management of the Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) charter fishery. As a result of these regulatory changes, participation in the charter sector Pacific halibut fishery has been capped with a limited entry program, and charter vessel operators in some areas have been subject to size restrictions and bag limits on the catch of Pacific halibut during guided trips, as well as restrictions in recent years on which days of the week guided halibut fishing trips can occur. Additionally, a halibut catch sharing plan (CSP) formalizing the process of allocating catch between the commercial and charter sectors was implemented in 2014 (78 FR 39121). Most recently, a recreational quota entity that would be allowed to buy (and sell) commercial fishing quota shares as an additional means for cross-sectoral allocation is being implemented (83 FR 47819).

In spite of regulatory changes in Alaska’s sport fisheries over the last decade, information about how changes in fisheries management tools affect sport fishery anglers and charter businesses has generally been somewhat limited to date (Lew and Larson 2012, 2015, 2017; Lew et al. 2016). While some information on the Alaska charter boat sector has been collected through the Statewide Harvest Survey and Saltwater Charter Logbook program , data collection has generally been limited to information about angler participation and harvest. Information on vessel and crew characteristics, services offered to clients, and information detailing cost and earnings have generally not been available for study or use in policy analyses.

To address this gap in information, the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) developed and implemented the Alaska Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Business Survey to collect baseline economic information about the charter fisheries sector for use in understanding the economics of the charter sector and evaluating the effects of regulatory changes on the sector. 

Download the full report here: Costs, Earnings, and Employment in the Alaska Saltwater Sport Fishing Charter Sector, 2017, by D. K. Lew, and J. Lee

Sunday, January 12, 2020

NMFS Charter Halibut Permit Annual Registration Form Available

The Council took action last year 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 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.

Note: Although NMFS is currently accepting applications, the new software applications that will allow RAM Division to process the annual CHP registrations and process the transfers of CHPs is still under development. Currently, any applications that RAM receives are being held in safekeeping until development and testing is completed. NMFS and the IT folks are very much aware of the February 1 opening of the sport fishery so that's our target for having everything in place. If anyone is in urgent need of obtaining their 2020 CHP (e.g. fishing winter chinook & halibut), I advise they contact RAM directly at 1-800-304-4846.