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).