EPA Proposes Discharge Permits Because of Court Case Under Appeals

News For Release: Monday, June 16, 2008
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
EPA Proposes Vessel Discharge Permits

Contact: Latisha Petteway, (202) 564-4355 /petteway.latisha@epa.gov

(Washington, DC – June 16, 2008)The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing two general permits under the Clean Water Act that will cover discharges incidental to normal operation of commercial and recreational vessels. Based on agency estimates, as many as 91,000 commercial vessels and about 13 million recreational boats could be affected.

“EPA is proposing a practical approach as we work with Congress on a longer-term, comprehensive solution,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. “We believe it is good environmental policy and common sense to promote clean boating without imposing new permits on millions of boaters.”

As a result of a court ruling currently under appeal, vessel owners or operators whose discharges have previously been exempt from Clean Water Act requirements for the last 35 years will require a permit as of September 30, 2008. EPA is proposing control technologies and management practices that enhance environmental protection and are practical to implement.

The commercial and large recreational vessel general permit (VGP) would cover all commercial vessels and recreational vessels 79 feet or longer.
For vessels that carry ballast water, it would incorporate the Coast Guard mandatory ballast water management and exchange standards, and have supplemental ballast water requirements. The VGP would provide technology-based and water-quality-based effluent limits for other types of discharges including deck runoff, bilgewater, gray water and other types of pollutants. The permit also establishes specific corrective actions, inspections and monitoring requirements as well as recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Only a subset of the vessels potentially affected by this permit will have to submit a Notice of Intent for coverage; for all the other vessels their coverage would be automatic.

The permit for smaller recreational vessels measuring less than 79 feet in length contains simpler provisions. These smaller vessels, which are substantially different in both size and operation from larger vessels, would need to comply with new and established best management practices.
In addition, these smaller vessels would not be required to submit a Notice of Intent for coverage under the permit; their coverage would be automatic.

EPA is inviting comments on both proposed permits for a period of 45 days. EPA will be holding public meetings and a hearing starting June 19.

Information on the permits and meetings:

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MSC Says NO to Farmed Fish

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) said no to certifying farmed fish.

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Chatham Blackcod Quota’s announced

Sitka… The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that the 2008 sablefish annual

harvest objective (AHO) for the Northern Southeast Inside (NSEI) sablefish fishery will be 1,508,000

round pounds, slightly higher than the AHO used in 2007 due to a decrease in the amount decremented as

bycatch in the halibut fishery. The fishery opens by regulation at 8:00 am on August 15, 2008 and will

close at 12:00 noon on November 15, 2008. There are currently 97 permits for this fishery, five less than

in 2007; therefore the individual quota share (EQS) will be 15,550 round pounds (7.6% above last year’s

EQS of 14,450 round pounds). Permit holders should have received a certified letter detailing any legal

overage or underage (up to 5% of the 2007 EQS) incurred during 2007. Their 2008 Personal Quota Share

(PQS) will be adjusted accordingly. Permit holders who did not receive that certified letter should contact

Kamala Carroll directly (747-6688).

The abundance of sablefish in Chatham Strait forecasted using the 2006 abundance estimate of sablefish

which was calculated using mark-recapture methods was rolled forward this year rather than completing a

new stock assessment using data collected in 2007. The decision to forego a complete stock assessment

this year was made to allow time for the publication of the methods and results of the 2006 stock

assessment and the results of the work provided by the consultant. Both reports are expected to be made

available to the public in early 2009. For the 2008 fishery, as was done for 2007, a harvest rate of F40%

(0.116) was applied to the lower 90% confidence limit of the forecasted biomass to set the acceptable

biological catch (ABC). The ABC was then decremented to account for updated estimates of bycatch

from other fisheries and estimates of unreported mortality to produce the AHO. The increase in the AHO

for 2008 is a result of one thing only: a 20,000 lb decrease in the amount decremented for mortality in

other fisheries, this decrease is largely due to a decrease in the estimated bycatch in the halibut fishery.

The reduction in permits to the fishery results in an additional increase to the EQS.

Harvest Rate and Quota Determination Considerations

The Department has determined that the harvest rate used from 2004-2006 (F40% = 0.138) was

inappropriately high. In order to review our current stock assessment methods and explore the possibility

of using an age structured analysis the Department contracted with a consultant. That work revealed that

the stock level in Chatham is at a low level relative to the historic biomass and that the harvest rate used

in 2007 and now in 2008 is unsustainably high for a population at this level. For this reason the

Department intends to proceed with caution and conservatism with regard to the harvest of sablefish from

Chatham Strait, but will give the industry time to adjust to this information. Therefore fisherman can

expect that in 2009 the Department will use a more conservative harvest rate such as F45% or F40%

adjusted. These harvest rates are used by other agencies managing sablefish on the west coast. Beginning

in 2009 the Department intends to discontinue the precaution of using the lower confidence level when

setting the TAC, and instead use the point estimate. Additionally, in 2009 the Department intends to begin

deducting testfish removals from the ABC. However, the Department will explore options to minimize

the impact to permit holders regarding the deduction of testfish removals by integrating EQS harvest into

testfish fishing.

The Department has taken into consideration that there has been no definitive evidence of strong

recruitment into Chatham Strait, that there has been a reduction in the TAC for the federal fishery, and

that Canadian sablefish fishermen are seeing declines in abundance there.

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Court Grants TRO

At a hearing today June 10th, the Judge granted the Charter fleet a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the one halibut daliy bag limit.  This will make the halibut charter daily bag limit back to two halibut a day, one under 32 inches.

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No Decision from Court Hearing on Charter Halibut Lawsuit

There was a hearing this morning in WA DC on the request for a temporary injunction on the one fish halibut bag limit for charter clients that went into effect June 1st.  The hearing was continued on Tuesday June 10th.

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Alaska Charter Files Lawsuit Against the One Fish Bag Limit

 Charter fleet has filed suit against Sec of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez on the one halibut daily bag limit for charter clients that went into effect on June 1st. this lawsuit was filed on June 2nd and a hearing in front of a judge for a temporary restraining order and injunction against the one fish bag limit is scheduled for Wednesday June 3rd at 10:00 am in DC.   The information that we have is that they have filed based on the Halibut Act “fair and equitable” allocation clause and 4 violations of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).  We’ll keep you posted.

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High Fuel Costs Hurt East Coast Charter Businesses

Some East Coast charter captains see 30% drop in business due to high fuel costs
Reprinted with permission from www.seafood.com 

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star] Norfolk, VA – June 2, 2008 By Connie Sage

In the first two months of this year, the number of for-hire trips by North Carolina’s 700 charter, guide and head boats dropped 30 percent, from 4,300 trips to 3,000, compared with last year, according to the state Division of Marine Fisheries.

The six sun burned men stood together on the pier at Hatteras Harbor Marina and smiled as charter boat captain Rom Whitaker snapped their photo.

After hooking a 350-pound marlin off Whitaker’s 53-foot sport- fishing boat, the Release, it didn’t matter to them that they had to pay more to fish.

‘There’s no consideration of gas when you’re having fun,’ said Steve Ward of Northern Virginia.

Not every angler feels the same way.

In the first two months of the year, the number of for-hire trips by North Carolina’s 700 charter, guide and head boats dropped 30 percent, from 4,300 trips to 3,000, compared with last year, according to the state Division of Marine Fisheries.

‘It was a one-two punch,’ said Doug Munford, a state biologist who coordinates data collection in Washington, N.C.

Stripers and bluefin tuna were not as plentiful earlier this year, he said, ‘and we’re probably not yet witnessing the impact of gasoline prices.’ Those numbers won’t be available until mid- summer.

Charter boat captains already know how bad it is.

‘Increased fuel costs are killing us,’ said Steve Richardson, captain of both the Back Lash and the Canyon Express. Business is off by at least 35 percent, he said.

Prices for fuel last week ranged from $4.49 to $4.60 a gallon for diesel. That’s 35 percent higher than in April and nearly double the price from a year ago.

It can cost as much as $2,000 a day or more just for fuel, depending on the size and speed of a charter boat and the time it takes to reach prime Outer Banks or Virginia Beach fishing areas.

Even though only a portion of the $200 to $400 in additional fuel costs per trip is being passed along to charter boat customers, fewer anglers are signing on, and boat owners are suffering.

‘Nobody’s calling,’ Richardson said. ‘No one wants to spend the money.’

This time last year, his charter prices out of Virginia Beach were $1,450 a day, compared with $1,900 this year; out of Hatteras, it was $1,100 , compared with $1,700 now.

Whitaker charged $1,250 to charter the Release last year, compared with $1,400 this season ‘all because of fuel.’

‘We’re working just as hard or harder but making less money and barely covering the cost,’ he said.

Mike Romeo, who owns the Gannet , a 46-foot custom Carolina sport- fishing boat in Hatteras, said his business is off by 50 percent – ‘the wors t we’ve ever seen it.’

Fuel prices historically creep up, Romeo pointed out, ‘but doggone, all of a sudden it was ‘bam!’ At this point, we’re just hanging on.’

His charter rates have climbed from $1,300 to $1,650 in a year. If rates continue to increase, charter boats could price themselves out of the business, he said.

‘On the other hand, we can’t go for free,’ he said. ‘Everybody’s in the same boat.’

Those customers willing to pay more aren’t complaining, said Aaron Midgett, assistant manager of Teach’s Lair Marina in Hatteras. ‘They understand for the most part,’ he said.

‘The person who can pay $1,700, $1,800 or $1,900 for an offshore trip – it doesn’t affect them,’ said John Crowling, general manager of the Virginia Beach Fishing Center at Rudee Inlet. Also, they’re usually splitting the cost with five other anglers.

Ben and Ivy Carey of Virginia Beach come to Hatteras a couple of times a year to charter a boat with friends. Last week they hooked two blue marlins, each weighing about 400 pounds, off Whitaker’s boat.

‘The cost of fuel is an annoyance but not altering our lifestyle significantly,’ said Carey, a physician. ‘We’re fortunate we can afford it.’

So can Dan Grose of Frederick, Md., who for the third year was fishing on Mike Warren’s 48-foot Hatteras Blue out of Hatteras Harbor.

Warren’s price didn’t increase that much, said Grose, an archaeologist. ‘Quite frankly, I can afford it. I’m coming back in September.’

Upper-income anglers are able to foot higher bills, but not the blue-collar guy, said Whitaker. ‘They don’t have to go fishing,’ he said. ‘They have to eat and get to work, not fish.’

After running charters for 33 years, Sam Parker is trying to sell his 40-foot Carolina boat, the Scorpio, that he keeps at Wachapreague Seaside Marina on the Eastern Shore.

Because of gas prices, Wachapreague is like a ghost town, he said.

The nail in the coffin was a tightened Virginia regulation limiting flounder to at least 19 inches this year.

Dave Wentling, captain of the Instigator, a 57-foot Carolina based in Hatteras and Ocean City, Md., said he doesn’t know how much more people will pay to go out on charter boats.

‘At some point they’ll say, ‘Let’s buy a bucket of crabs, stay home and drink beer.’ ‘

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


Copyright 2008 Seafood.com and/or its licensors. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of Associated Press material is licensed.
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Charter Restrictions Implemented for One Fish Bag Limit

Contact:          Sheela McLean                                   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
                                                                                                                        907-586-7032                                      May 22, 2008
NOAA Reduces Halibut Catch for Southeast Alaska Charter Anglers to Protect Stock
NOAA’s Fisheries Service issued a new rule today that states starting June 1, charter vessel anglers in southeast Alaska will be allowed to keep one instead of two halibut per day. 
In addition, the number of lines used to fish for halibut must not exceed the number of anglers onboard the charter vessel, to a maximum of six lines. Also, guides and crew are not allowed to catch and retain halibut while clients are onboard.
“These new regulations are needed because charter fishing has grown in southeast Alaska while the abundance of halibut has decreased,” said Doug Mecum, NOAA’s Fisheries Service Alaska region acting administrator. 
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA’s Fisheries Service approved the new regulations to reduce the harvest of halibut to the new target level of 931,000 pounds in 2008 in the waters of southeast Alaska, which is International Pacific Halibut Commission Area 2C. The new regulations will remain in effect until further notice.
While the target harvest for southeast Alaska in 2007 was 1.4 million pounds, the actual amount of halibut harvested by charter anglers was estimated at more than 1.7 million pounds.
Sport anglers who are not aboard guided charter vessels may continue to keep two halibut of any size daily. Guided charter vessel anglers outside of Southeast Alaska may also continue to keep two halibut of any size per day.
A regulation implemented earlier this year to assist enforcement officers to count the number of fish each angler possesses, says anglers can cut their halibut on board into not more than two ventral and two dorsal pieces and two cheeks, all with the skin on.
NOAA’s Fisheries Service received many comments on the proposed regulations for the charter vessel fishery. A summary of those comments and the agency’s responses will be published with the final regulations, which will be at http://www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov
NOAA’s Fisheries Service is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation’s living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S.  Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
On the Web:
NOAA’s Fisheries in Alaska: www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov and www.afsc.noaa.gov

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Pacific Salmon Treaty Agreement Reached

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  May 22, 2008                                                                           08-11
Contact:  David Bedford, Deputy Commissioner 907-465-4100
Pacific Salmon Treaty Negotiators Reach Agreement
(Juneau) – The Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) today announced an agreement on a ten-year extension of fishery arrangements under the Pacific Salmon Treaty.  The agreement addresses a number of salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska, including those near the British Columbia/Alaska border and on several rivers that cross between the two countries.    
            The Pacific Salmon Treaty, first signed in 1985, is a bilateral agreement under which the U.S. and Canada co-operate on management, research and enhancement of Pacific salmon that swim through the waters of both countries.  Under the treaty, fishery arrangements put in place in 1999 expire at the end of December, 2008. 
            “Ten years ago, the commission had a much more difficult time reaching agreement, and the final negotiations had to be conducted at a government-to-government level,” David Bedford, Alaska’s representative on the PSC, said.  “This time, the Commissioners, along with stakeholders and fisheries management staff up and down the coast, worked hard to conclude an agreement within the Commission process, and this ensured participation by the state and the affected people, organizations and communities.”    
“Throughout nearly two years of negotiations, the State of Alaska worked in close coordination with fishery representatives,” he continued.  “While we had to make some sacrifices to reach this agreement, we were convinced that this is a responsible agreement that provides stability for our fisheries and helps ensure the long-term health and sustainability of shared salmon resources.”
For Chinook salmon, the most complex of the species covered under the treaty due to the geographic scope of their migration, the revised agreement:
·        maintains the fundamentals of the abundance–based management system established in 1999, which mandates that harvests vary up and down with productivity of the stocks, and has provided substantial benefits to Alaska fisheries. 
·        recognizes that Chinook stocks in the area covered by the treaty vary in status with many being healthy and abundant while others are considered to be stocks of concern.
·        recognizes the depressed status of a number of stocks originating in southern B.C. and the U.S. Pacific Northwest (some of which are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act), and reduces the allowable Chinook catch levels for fisheries in in fisheries off the west coast of Vancouver Island in B.C. by 30%, and in Southeast Alaska by 15%.
·        requires the Commission to review the need for the continuation of these levels of reduction in 2014.
·        contains provisions to fund and conduct important programs to obtain additional information critical to conservation and fisheries management which will be of value in the 2014 review.  The funding includes $10 million over 5 years to better account for salmon escapement and $15 million for improvements in fishery monitoring.
“The catch reduction is a tough position for us to accept,” said Bedford, “but those of us who have been working hard on these talks, including representatives of southeast Alaskan fishing interests, recognized that there are expressed conservation concerns for a number of stocks and that reaching an agreement that mandates additional monitoring and analysis of these stocks should help answer questions about their status and significantly contribute to the review of the reduction that will take place in 2014.”
For other Alaskan fisheries covered by the Treaty, the agreement revises fishery provisions for terminal area and in-river sockeye, coho, and Chinook fisheries on the Stikine, Taku, and Alsek rivers.  The agreement builds upon the current abundance-based management system for conservation and harvest sharing, provides for additional harvest opportunities for sockeye through responsible stock enhancement on the Taku and Stikine rivers, and addresses possible future opportunities for fisheries on the Alsek River after coordinated stock assessment work.
For relevant fisheries in the boundary area between northern British Columbia and southern Southeast Alaska, negotiators recognized that the fishery arrangements established in 1999 are working well, and the new agreement extends those terms for another ten years.  Key provisions in this area relate to the catch ceilings established for some B.C.-bound sockeye stocks harvested in the commercial seine fishery near Noyes Island and the commercial gillnet fishery at Tree Point.
The Pacific Salmon Commission action is a recommendation to the U.S. and Canadian governments for formal approval.  There are domestic processes in the respective countries that will take place in ensuing months, with the goal of having the revised fishery arrangements in place by January 1, 2009.   In the U.S., the process for final approval by the State Department includes analysis by the National Marine Fisheries Service that the fishery arrangements meet Endangered Species Act requirements.


Additional information can be found on the Pacific Salmon Commission website: http://www.psc.org/Index.htm



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Congressman Rahall Urges Caution Against Hasty Development of Offshore Aquaculture

May 9, 2008

Committee on Natural Resources Press Release 

CONTACT: Allyson Groff or Blake Androff, 202-226-9019

Washington, D.C. - House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), citing a new report released today by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on U.S. aquaculture, cautioned that the report’s findings illustrate that significant barriers still exist in the development of an environmentally safe offshore aquaculture industry.

Concerned by increased industry and stakeholder interest in expanding the U.S. aquaculture industry into offshore waters where no clear regulatory framework exists, Chairman Rahall asked the GAO in February 2007 to assess a variety of policy and regulatory questions to ensure that such development occurs in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner.  While there are currently no aquaculture projects in U.S. federal waters, successful onshore farming operations do exist.

The GAO report underscores the need to establish a clear regulatory system to oversee the potential expansion of the aquaculture industry into offshore waters.

In April 2007, Rahall introduced the National Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2007 (H.R. 2010) at the request of, and as a courtesy to, the Administration.  The legislation would authorize the Secretary of Commerce to establish and implement a regulatory system for offshore aquaculture in the United States Exclusive Economic Zone.

“The Administration’s proposed bill was a good first step, but it does not go far enough to ensure adequate protection for the marine environment.  This new report makes abundantly clear what I have long believed – any offshore aquaculture development must be done in a manner that does not jeopardize the health of our oceans or the viability of the fishing industry,” Rahall said.

The GAO report identifies several important safeguards that need to be carefully considered to help regulate the offshore aquaculture industry, including: 

  • The appointment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as the lead federal agency to regulate and permit any offshore aquaculture facilities. 

  • The clear delineation of the roles and responsibilities of other federal agencies and states in the administration of an offshore aquaculture program to minimize confusion. 

  • The establishment of a permitting and site selection process that clearly identifies the terms and conditions for offshore aquaculture operations. 

  • The implementation of a regulatory process to review, monitor, and mitigate the potential environmental impacts of offshore aquaculture facilities. 

  • Additional research on (1) developing fish feeds that do not rely heavily on harvesting wild fish; (2) developing best management practices; (3) exploring how escaped offshore aquaculture-raised fish might impact wild fish populations; and (4) developing strategies to breed and raise fish while effectively managing possible disease. 

The report, “Multiple Administrative and Environmental Issues Need to be Addressed in Establishing a U.S. Regulatory Framework”, is available on GAO’s Web site at: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08594.pdf. 

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