Reprinted by Permission SEAFOOD.COM
|NOAA asks for delay in hearing on halibut charter rule for 10 days, charter interests are opposed|
|SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton – June 18, 2008 – NMFS has asked for a ten day extension of the temporary restraining order suspending management of the halibut charter fleet to allow the government more time to prepare the legal brief in the case. The Halibut charter plaintiffs have opposed this extension.
In their motion (helpfully posted by Wesley Loy of Anchorage Daily News), NMFS gives the following reasons for an extension:
1) The halibut management issue is of extreme importance to NMFS and subject to international treaties.
2) The daily one fish limit was a management measure designed to help limit harvest by sport fishing vessels.
3) IN the absence of this and other measures, the charter sector is expected to substantially exceed the GHL’ in 2008. The charter fishery is not closed when the GHL is reached. As a result of the temporary restraining order, NMFS believes that additional harvest is already occurring that was not planned by NMFS and the International Pacific Halibut Commission in setting halibut quotas.
4)The request for a preliminary injunction would have a major impact, because the peak charter halibut season is the months of June, July and August. Should the preliminary injunction be issued, it would eliminate the ability of NMFS to manage the halibut fishery within quota guidelines this year.
The idea that the halibut charter fishery should operate without catch limits is a travesty. Either the industry should be prepared to shut down once their allocated harvest level has been reached, as is true with almost every other fishery in Alaska, or they should buy commercial quota if they need it to continue their season. If the charter fishery does succeed in derailing any halibut limits this summer, the reaction for the coming year would likely be much more severe. Those who live within established quotas do not look kindly on those who flout those rules.
Halibut charter fishermen don’t have the luxury of arguing on the one hand that they are economically important to their communities, and on the other that they cannot purchase additional quota. If their economic importance is due to their being subsidized by the commercial fishery, then it makes more sense to reduce the number of out of state halibut sports fishermen and eliminate the need for the subsidy by closing the fishery when the GHL for the charter fleet is reached.