NPFMC Scheduled to take Final Action on Halibut Charter Issues/Allocation

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will be meeting starting September 29th with the Advisory Panel taking up halibut charter issues Monday morning.  The Council will start on Wednesday and take up halibut after B-report are over (Wed. – Oct 1st).  The Council expects halibut to take up to 14 hours but I believe that it will take longer than that.  The Council will be taking final action on the halibut charter allocation and leasing provisions between the sectors and 3A management measures.  The charter industry has announced that they have “A New Proposal” which would guarantee them a two fish bag limit unless there is conservation concern coastwide.  Their proposal can be viewed on the Charter Halibut Task  Force website at: http://www.charterhalibut.org/id18.html.  The Halibut Coalition has a website they developed this summer that can be viewed at: http://www.halibutcoalition.org/

The council agenda can be viewed at: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/Agendas/1008agenda.pdf

The Council motion that is being acted on:  http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/current_issues/halibut_issues/HalibutCharterMotion408.pdf

The Council analysis should be posted approximately September 2nd at: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/default.htm (right side of the screen under meeting materials)

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Coast Guard extends Comment period on Advanced Rule Making

The Coast Guard has extended the comment period and scheduled some public meetings during Fish Expo in November on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for commercial fishing industry vessels .  Two public meetings will be held at Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle, WA on Friday, November 21, 9:00 am to 12 noon and Saturday, November 22, 9:00 am to 12 noon, although the meeting may end early if business is concluded.  Written comments must reach the Docket Management Facility on or before December 15, 2008.  See previous article for comments that SEAFA has already submitted although we forgot to speak to one of the aspects of the proposal regarding embarkation stations. 

 

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SEAFA Submits comments on Proposed Rules

SEAFA has written comments on several proposed rules with comment periods that have ended recently. We are posting links to the letters we submitted.  

The one comment period was for an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for fishing vessel safety regulations in particular regarding stability and watertight integrity regulations for vessels 50 to 79 feet with training required of all operators and owners of vessels over 30 feet.  As of yesterday, the only other Alaska commercial fishing organization to write in was United Fishermen of Alaska and only approx 10-15 letters were received from across the country.

Fishing Vessel Safety requirements proposed rule Aug. 2008

The second comment period was regarding the EPA proposed rule for general discharge permits for the normal operation of a vessel.  EPA was pursuing these permit due to a court case regarding ballast water that required EPA to permit these discharges and that they did not have legal authority to exempt the discharges under the clean water act as they had been doing for these many years.  Legislation was introduced and passed by both houses of Congress to exempt recreational boats from permit requirements and gives the fishing industry a two year exemption while discharges from commercial fishing vessels are studied.   THE EXEMPTION DOES NOT APPLY TO FISH TENDERS!  We felt submitting comments on the proposed rule was important to help focus the study of discharges from commercial fishing vessels and to correct two very large erroneous assumptions made about commercial fishing vessels.  EPA in the proposed rule had commercial fishing vessels included with small cruise ships, ferries, barges tankers etc.  They assumed that every commercial fishing vessel has a certificate of documentation, since a commercial fishing vessel under 5 gross tons does not qualify for a certificate of documenation they are underestimating the number of commercial and size of commercial fishing vessels.  They also assumed that commercial fishing vessels were classified and regularly scheduled drydock maintenance.

EPA Discharge Proposed rule comments Aug. 2008

The documents for these proposed rules and all comments received by the public may be viewed from the following website by typing in the  document number listed on SEAFA’s letter in the search box.

http://www.regulations.gov/search/index.jsp

 

 

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Salmon MSC Certification Guaranteed Through 2009

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification is guaranteed through 2009, in order for the 2010 salmon season to be covered an annual audit must be performed in 2009.  ADFG is looking for an alternative client to take over the responsibilities and cost of the MSC certification.  The Alaska salmon fishery is the only fishery that the management agency is the client rather than the processors or trade organizations.  ADFG sent MSC a letter asking about the possibility and the method to allow a different client to replace them.  The difficulties in replacing ADFG as the client is that the Alaska salmon fishery is certified as a whole, it is unlikely that there is any appropriate trade organization or processor that serves all fisheries in the state and would want to take on the whole state fisheries while there will likely be interest in specific fisheries. 

ADFG Letter to MSC Aug 2008

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EPA Discharge Permit Exemption Legislation Passes Senate

July 22, 2008 

Senate Passes Murkowski bill For a moratorium On discharge permits for commercial fishing vessels  House Voted and passed legislation later in the day.  WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Senate today unanimously passed a bill authored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski and co-sponsored by Sen. Ted Stevens, both Alaska Republicans, that would provide commercial fishing boats and other small commercial vessels a two-year moratorium from permits for discharges under the Clean Water Act. 

The bill also directs the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a study to determine the types, volumes and effects of discharges from commercial vessels of different sizes and categories.  The EPA would provide a report to Congress within 15 months that would be used to determine if permanent exemptions are warranted.  

This legislation is a companion bill to the Clean Boating Act which also passed the Senate by unanimous consent today. The U.S. House of Representatives was scheduled to consider both bills as early as this afternoon. The Clean Boating Act provides a permanent exemption to recreational vessels to the same incidental discharge permits under the Clean Water Act.  

 “In Alaska, the 9,700 vessels that make up the commercial fishing fleet are predominantly small boats, with an average length of 36 feet,” Murkowski said. “Similar to recreational boats, they operate seasonally, spending around 90 days on the water each year. Commercial vessel discharges are comparable to recreational for the same sized vessels. Although the recreational sector was able to get an exemption, it is my hope that the commercial vessel study will provide the data to justify a similar exemption for the commercial sector.” 

Said Stevens: “This compromise was hard fought. Senator Boxer’s bill only exempted recreational boaters from arduous Clean Water Act standards but it left small commercial fishermen facing the same standards as a cruise liner. The owner of a yacht would have qualified for the exemption but gillnetters on a 35-foot boat would’ve had to commit their time and resources to getting an additional federal permit. This compromise will allow for a two-year exemption while the impacts of incidental discharge are studied. It is my hope that we will eventually make the exemption for commercial and recreational vessels permanent.” 

The commercial vessels that are covered under the moratorium are commercial fishing vessels of any size and other commercial vessels less than 79 feet. 

Discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels have been exempt from the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits under the Clean Water Act since 1973. The NPDES was developed for industrial sources of pollution and was not designed for mobile sources. 

In 2006, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the EPA exceeded its authority under the Clean Water Act in exempting these discharges and issued an order revoking the exemption and requiring the agency to permit these discharges by September 30, 2008.  The EPA has appealed the decision, but in the meantime, the agency has proposed to permit both recreational and commercial vessels under two general permits. 

Murkowski said that neither recreational nor small commercial vessels have documented discharge levels that have been shown to be harmful to the environment. The court case that required the EPA to develop a permit system was focused on invasive species and ballast water. Neither recreational nor small commercial vessels have ballast tanks and very few are ocean-going vessels. 

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Chatham Quota Adjusted

2008 NSEI (Chatham Strait) SABLEFISH QUOTA ADJUSTMENT ANNOUNCEMENT

Sitka… The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that the 2008 Equal Quota Share (EQS) for the Northern Southeast Inside (NSEI) sablefish fishery has been adjusted due to a Supreme Court decision last week that decreased the eligible permit holders by one from 97 to 96, six less permits than in 2007. For this reason the individual quota share (EQS) will be 15,710 round pounds (8.7% above last year’s EQS of 14,450 round pounds). The sablefish annual harvest objective (AHO) for the NSEI sablefish fishery is 1,508,000 round pounds. The fishery opens by regulation at 8:00 am on August 15,2008 and will close at 12:00 noon on November 15, 2008.

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IPHC Apportionment Meeting

IPHC Workshop on Biomass Apportionment – September 4th, 2008

The International Pacific Halibut Commission adopted a coastwide stock assessment methodology at its 2008 Anual Meeting. Ths methodology accommodates movement of halibut at all ages and determines a single coastwide estimate of exploitable biomass.

This single coastwide estimate is then apportioned into IPHC regulatory area estimates using data from the fishery-independent IPHC setline stock assessment survey and estimates of bottom area from each regulatory area. This apportionment resulted in a different distribution of the exploitable biomass than had been estimated with the previous closed-area stock assessments. At the 2008 Anual Meeting, the IPHC Commissioners and industr endorsed the coastwide stock assessment methodology but wished to have fuher investigation of methods for apportioning the coastwde exploitable biomass estimate into IPHC regulatory area estimates of biomass and catch limits. In addition, the Commission requested that the staff update industr on the most recent results and understanding of halibut movements arsing from Commssion tagging programs, paricularly the PIT -tag experiment. This workshop wil address both of these issues. The workshop wil be held at the Red Lion hotel in Bellevue, W A on September 4th, 2008. A registration form for the workshop with details on the venue is attached to this News Release. Registration forms must be received by August 15, 2008. An online registration and other workshop information can be found at:

http://wwjphc.washington.edu/halcom/meetings/workshop2008/baw2008.htm

The workshop wil cover: updated information on movement of halibut from PIT and P AT tagging experiments; the survey-based apportionment of coastwide exploitable biomass used by Commission staff for the 2008 catch limit determination; alternate methods to apportion coastwide exploitable biomass; and, estimated impacts on harest rates and stock biomass from the use of specific apportionment methods. Relevant documents are located on the meeting website at: http://www.iphc.washington.edu/halcom/meetings/workshop2008/bawdocs.htm

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GCI Cable Laying Barge Schedule Updated

There was an updated barge laying schedule sent on July 3rd.  The schedule has slipped by a few days due to unavailable accomadation unit for the barge crew.   The new schedule has the barge arriving in Ketchikan July 16th and commencing the installation on the 18th.  The barge will lay cable to Wrangell and conduct the Wrangell landing on 7/21-22/08 followed by installation to South Mitkof 7/24/08 and then to Petersburg with the landing there on 7/26/08.  The installation will continue on towards Juneau and then start down Chatham Straits to Sitka.  We will update the page as we get new information and corrections to the schedule.

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Habitat Transition Back to ADFG Progressing

Habitat Department Transitions from Natural Resources Department  July 1, 2008, Anchorage, Alaska – Governor Sarah Palin today praised the work of state officials in completing the transition of the Habitat Division from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G).  The move, initiated by Governor Palin earlier this year in Executive Order 114, reversed a decision by the prior administration.  After extensive discussions with community leaders and after hearing the concerns of numerous Alaskans, the Governor decided that the division belonged in what had been its traditional home at ADF&G.  “I appreciate the cooperation between the two agencies as this important transition comes to fruition,” Governor Palin said.  “The professional staff of both departments demonstrated their commitment to the state’s mission of responsible resource development and conservation.”  Under DNR’s management, the office has continued to fulfill its important statutory responsibilities. That will not change as the division moves back to ADF&G.  “We recognize the importance of balancing habitat protection and resource development,” said Tom Irwin, Commissioner of DNR.  “It is an essential part of the state’s responsibilities.”  ADF&G Commissioner Denby Lloyd echoed Irwin.  “We are pleased that the transition is going so smoothly, and that all of the state’s habitat biologists and permitting staff are back under one roof,” Lloyd said.  “Our commitment to responsible stewardship of Alaska’s fish and game, as well as responsible development of our natural resources for the benefit of all Alaskans, is stronger than ever.” 

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Normal Length Dungeness Crab Season Announced

Juneau. . . The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that the 2008/09 commercial Dungeness crab season length in Southeast Alaska will remain unchanged as per 5 AAC 32.110. In accordance with the Southeast Alaska Dungeness Crab Management Plan [5 AAC 32.146], the department has projected the harvest from the first week’s landings and effort data. The projection indicates that the total season’s harvest will exceed 2.25 million pounds as required by 5 AAC 32.146 for a normal season length. For the 2007/08 season, the initial prediction was 3.5 million pounds and the eventual total season harvest was 5.4 million pounds.

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