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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Exxon Valdez Verdict Issued

The Court in a split decision 5-3 with one member not participating due to holding Exxon Stock slashed the punitive damages to $507.5 Million rather than the $5 billion the court had originally settled on.  The majority opinion was given by Justice David Souter. “In the circumstances of this case, the award should be limited to an amount equal to compensatory damages, he said.”In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens supported the $2.5 billion figure for punitive damages, saying Congress has chosen not to impose restrictions in such circumstances. 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also dissented, saying the court was engaging in “lawmaking” by concluding that punitive damages may not exceed what the company already paid to compensate victims for economic losses.

“The new law made by the court should have been left to Congress,” wrote Ginsburg. Justice Stephen Breyer made a similar point, opposing a rigid 1 to 1 ratio of punitive damages to victim compensation.

ADN article http://www.adn.com/exxonvaldez/story/446057.html

Link to court case posted by ADN http://community.adn.com/sites/community.adn.com/files/07-219.pdf

Wallstreet article http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080625/scotus_exxon_valdez.html?.v=4

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Red King Crab Personal Use Fishery Closed – Will not Open on July 1st.

In two separate news releases today June 23rd, ADFG announced the closure of District 11A for both commercial and personal use for the 2008/2009 season.  In addition, ADFG announced the closure of all districts to personal use red king crab fishing scheduled to open July 1st until the red king crab survey assessments are completed.

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Preliminary Injuction Granted to Southeast Charter Industry

Today, June 20th the Judge denied the Dept of Justice’s request for a delay on the preliminary injunction hearing and granted the plaintiff’s (charter operators) the preliminary injunction.  This keeps in place the two fish bag limit – one under 32″ and the carcasses must be kept until landing in place until an appeal is filed and heard or the main trial on the actual merits of the case are heard.  The Judge stated that the trial would occur before “next fishing season”.

We’re disappointed that the Judge still does not understand that the one fish bag limit is about keeping a sector to within it’s allocation to prevent the resource from being over-fished.  

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Halibut Coalition Issues Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                    Contact:  Linda Behnken, (907) 747-0695

Coastal Community Residents Intervene to Protect Halibut Resource

Yesterday a wide range of individuals and organizations filed papers in U.S. District Court in Washington DC to intervene in the lawsuit filed by certain halibut charter businesses seeking to increase their 2008 harvest above authorized levels. 

On June 10, Judge Rosemary Collyer issued a Temporary Restraining Order that blocked the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) from enforcing a one halibut bag limit on charter vessels in Southeast Alaska.  The purpose of the rule was to ensure that the charter sector did not exceed their allocation for the fifth year in a row.

The Intervenors support action by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and NMFS to hold the 2008 charter harvest to their 2008 harvest cap.  Judge Collyer has scheduled a preliminary injunction hearing for June 20 in Washington, DC. 

Intervenors include charter boat businesses, commercial fishermen and families, subsistence users, communities, and Southeast seafood processors. Common to all Intervenors is the concern that the plaintiff’s actions circumvent the public process carried out by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (Council) over a 14-month period.  That process included comprehensive draft and final environmental assessments, two public hearings, and a public comment period on the proposed rule last January that generated 273 written comments.  The plaintiffs offered no new information to fishery managers and the court other than what had already been considered in the public process.

The NMFS is vigorously contesting Judge Collyer’s ruling because of concern about overharvesting the resource and disruption of the public process.   NMFS and their Department of Justice attorneys have requested a delay in the preliminary injunction hearing so they have time to better prepare their legal brief. 

The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) has filed an amicus curiae brief with the court explaining the negative conservation impacts of repeated charter overages. In his brief, IPHC Executive Director Bruce Leaman states, “The IPHC catch limits explicitly presumed effective management of charter vessel fisheries to levels specified in United States fishery regulations. If the charter vessel fisheries are not held to the levels upon which IPHC catch regulations are based, the 2008 conservation targets accepted by Canada and the United States will not be realized.”

Halibut abundance in southeast Alaska has declined over the past two years, triggering a 43% reduction in the setline quota with another cut likely next year. The Southeast charter allocation was not reduced until this year, but charter operators have exceeded their allocation every year since 2004 by 20-36% annually.

Federal managers and the IPHC are charged with managing for sustained yield and protecting the public’s interest in fishery resources.  The vast majority of the public gets their halibut at grocery stores, restaurants, and (especially in Alaska) through direct harvest.

 ”The public has an interest in the long-term health of the halibut resource,” said Jev Shelton, spokesperson for the Halibut Coalition.  “The Southeast setline fishery supplies approximately 10 million high quality servings of halibut each year to consumers and restaurant goers across the nation.  That interest deserves protection.”

In commenting on the 2008 quota set by the IPHC, Tom McLaughlin, President/CEO of the 450-member Seafood Producers Cooperative noted, “In written materials presented at the annual meeting, IPHC staff stated that the halibut resource is at the lowest level in a decade.  IPHC data indicate that the decline in Southeast Alaska is serious and driven by many factors, including the continual Guideline Harvest Level overages.”

“Resolving this issue is critical to relieving tensions in Southeast coastal communities,” said Shelton.  “Clearly both commercial sectors—setline and charter—need to share in conserving the resource by staying within allocations.”

Eighty-three percent of the Southeast setline allocation is harvested by Alaska residents; virtually all is processed in Southeast coastal communities. 

The Halibut Coalition is comprised of fourteen halibut processing and fishing organizations, in addition to over 500 individual vessel owners and crew. The Coalition’s mission is:   To protect the sustainability of the Pacific halibut resource, ensure fair and equitable allocation of the halibut resource among all sectors, and promote rational management of the halibut fishery.

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Dept of Justice Asks for Temporary Delay until June 30th for the Preliminary Injunction Hearing on the Halibut Charter One Fish

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.


John Sackton, Editor And Publisher
Seafood.com News 1-781-861-1441
Email comments to jsackton@seafood.com

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