NMFS Issues Press Release on Charter Halibut Limited Entry Program

NOAA Fisheries has announced a new fishery management program passed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council that limits the number of charter boats in the guided sport halibut fishery in Southeast Alaska and the central Gulf of Alaska.

“The new program will stabilize the guided charter fishing sector, maintain access to the fishery for businesses that participated in recent years, and allow access for others who can obtain transferable permits,” said Alaska’s Acting Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, Doug Mecum.

“The guided sport charter halibut sector in these areas has been growing steadily and exceeding harvest levels set to protect the halibut population. This new program adds incentive for fishermen to conserve the halibut population over time,” Mecum added.

Sport charter halibut businesses will have to obtain a permit from NOAA to be able to have clients legally catching halibut in Southeast Alaska and the central Gulf of Alaska. NOAA Fisheries will publicize the 60-day permit application period, which likely will begin in early February 2010.

Charter halibut guides will be required to carry their new permit on board starting February 1, 2011.

Under the new program,

  • permits will be issued to qualifying individuals or businesses that documented fishing trips during a qualifying year (2004 or 2005) and the recent participation year, 2008;
  • halibut charter business operators are required to have a charter halibut permit on board to fish for halibut;
  • charter halibut permit holders are subject to limits on the number of permits they can hold and on the number of charter boat anglers who can catch and retain halibut on their charter boats;
  • newcomers can enter the charter halibut fishery by acquiring a transferable permit;
  • permits will be issued to community quota groups representing specific rural communities;
  • permits will be endorsed for fishing only in a specific International Pacific Halibut Commission management area;
  • permits will be required for charter halibut vessel operation only in International Pacific Halibut Commission regulatory areas 2C (Southeast Alaska) and 3A (Central Gulf of Alaska) under this program.

Details of the program are being published in the Federal Register and can be viewed at: http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/halibut/sport.htm.

Unguided or independent sport fishermen and subsistence fishermen are not affected by the new charter halibut limited access program.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission sets harvest levels within regulatory areas along the coasts of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California. In Alaska, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council allocates the harvest between fishing sectors within the Commission’s regulatory areas and NOAA Fisheries develops regulations to implement those harvest levels.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries previously reduced the allowed take of halibut to one per day per charter angler in Southeast Alaska. The new limited access program for sport charter halibut fishing operators is another step towards controlling charter halibut fishing in Southeast Alaska and the central Gulf of Alaska. An expected next step under development by NOAA Fisheries is to establish an allocation of halibut between the charter and commercial fishing sectors and allow fishing quota to flow between the sectors.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. Visit www.noaa.gov. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries in Alaska, visit alaskafisheries.noaa.gov or: www.afsc.noaa.gov.  http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/newsreleases/2010/charterhalibut010410.htm

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