The controversy over how to divide halibut resources between charter operators and commercial entities continues this week as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration opened the public comment period for its reworked catch-sharing plan for commercial and guided sport.
The program, which was first proposed in 2011 but reworked by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council last year, establishes a clear allocation between commercial and charter sectors in Southeast Alaska and the Central Gulf regions. Among its features is a more responsive system for generating harvest limits as well as a program that would allow commercial halibut IFQ holders to lease quota shares to the charter industry so they could allow their clients to retain more fish.
But some in the charter fishing industry say the catch sharing plan is far from a step forward. Rex Murphy, who is associated with the Alaska Charter Association, said the plan could result in a significant reduction in the amount of fish allocated to the charter sector — as much as 30 to 40 percent depending on how the fish stocks shape up in coming years. And being able to lease quota shares from the commercial sector will mean the cost of going charter boat fishing will go up.
“There is nothing in this plan about conservation of the resource,” Murphy said. “All the fish that are being taken away from the guided sector are being reallocated to the commercial sector. No more fish will be left in the water.”
Murphy said the management of halibut in Alaska has long been stacked toward the commercial sector. This plan is no different, he said.
“Not only does this reallocate 30 to 40 percent more fish to the commercial sector, it allows us to graciously rent those fish back,” he said. “It’s a resource grab.”