Dr Jim Balsiger appointed as Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries (NMFS)

VADM Lautenbacher called Dr. Jim Balsiger today with confirmation of his selection by White House Personnel to serve as the Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries for the remainder of the Bush Administration.  This is great news for the National Marine Fisheries Service as this will ensure continuity of leadership during the last year of this Administration. 

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Habitat Division to Return to Department of Fish and Game

     February 5, 2008, Juneau, Alaska – Governor Sarah Palin today announced the Habitat Division will be returning to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
     The decision to return habitat permitting functions to the Department of Fish and Game acknowledges that the responsibilities of Habitat Division are better aligned with the overall mission and structure of the Department of Fish and Game. 
      After an extensive review, Governor Palin, Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin and Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd concluded that the Office of Habitat Management and Permitting has done an outstanding job of fulfilling their statutory responsibilities under the Department of Natural Resources. 
      However, the move is expected to improve communications and avoid duplication of efforts while allowing Habitat Division to operate in the same manner it has at DNR to encourage responsible development and protect Alaska’s resources.
     “We are absolutely committed to the protection of wildlife habitat,” Governor Palin said. “But we are just as committed to responsible development of our other resource industries such as oil and gas, mining and timber, and we’re going to make sure that development occurs through strong oversight and cooperation between the departments.”
     The Governor emphasized that both departments share in the State’s mission for responsible conservation and resource development and recognize that balancing these two functions is an integral part of their stewardship responsibilities. 
     “The department and I are committed to bringing these two functions together and making them work,” said Commissioner Lloyd.
     Both DNR and ADF&G commissioners acknowledge that Alaska’s natural resources have not suffered because of the location of the habitat function at DNR.  DNR and ADF&G are committed to continuing and supporting the successful work that OHMP has achieved while at DNR.   
     “I have nothing but praise for the professional staff and the work that OHMP has accomplished at DNR,” Commissioner Irwin said.  “I am committed to making this transfer successful and we will work closely with the ADF&G to ensure that we are working together to achieve resource development with protection for Alaska’s great environment.”
     The Governor will submit an Executive Order to the legislature to return fish habitat permitting responsibilities to the Department of Fish and Game.  Detailed planning for the move will begin immediately and movement of personnel and supervision will occur by July 1, 2008.

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Salmon Bycatch in the Bering Sea Pollock Fishery

An opportunity to comment on the EIS for reducing the incidental catch of salmon by trawl vessels fishing for pollock in the Bering Sea.  Comments for the scoping are due by Feb. 15th.  Below is the press release on the NMFS website.

The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council and the Alaska Region of NOAA Fisheries are getting ready to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on measures to reduce the incidental catch of salmon by trawl vessels fishing for pollock in the Bering Sea.

Chinook and chum salmon bycatch in the pollock fisheries has increased significantly in recent years. Reducing and controlling salmon bycatch is one of the most important issues being discussed by the Council this year.

In 2007, NOAA Fisheries implemented management measures that give the pollock industry more flexibility to move their fishing operations to avoid areas of high salmon bycatch. As a follow-up to this action, the Council initiated this EIS analysis of alternatives to further address salmon bycatch. These alternatives include implementing new salmon area closures or establishing bycatch limits that would close the pollock fisheries once the limit is reached.

“The Council is looking at the current regulations and limits on salmon bycatch for the pollock fisheries,” said Doug Mecum, Deputy Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region. “The Council will be evaluating the possible effects of new regulatory closures and salmon bycatch limits.”

“This is the scoping period for the upcoming EIS. We’re asking now for written comments from the public on the issues, including potential impacts and alternatives that should be considered in revising salmon bycatch management,” said Mecum.

The public comment period for scoping on the EIS ends February 15.

Instructions for submitting comments and more detail can be found at www.fakr.noaa.gov/sustainablefisheries/bycatch/default.htm

Any regulation changes will be designed to maintain a healthy marine ecosystem, ensure the long-term conservation and abundance of salmon, and to provide maximum benefit to fishermen and communities that depend on these resources.

Analysts will evaluate potential effects on salmon stocks and other components of the marine environment. Social and economic impacts also will be considered, including the effects that salmon bycatch management measures would have on pollock fishermen and on people who rely on commercial, subsistence, and recreational salmon fisheries.

For further information, contact Gretchen Harrington at 907-586-7228 or gretchen.harrington@noaa.gov

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Gov Palin Backs Biology Based Management in State of State Speech

In her State of the State speech, Gov Palin had the following to say about the fisheries.  “We’re supporting our tremendous fisheries – for 150 years they have been the economic and social heart of our coastal communities. They define and sustain us, and I will not let politics interfere with management-for-abundance of our largest private sector employer. “

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State Supports Punitive Damages from Exxon Oil Spill

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by Alaska lawmakers and four former governors says Exxon violated a social contract it had entered into with the state when the tanker Exxon Valdez hit a reef in Prince William Sound in 1989 and caused an 11-million-gallon oil spill.

The brief says that as a result, the oil company should be subject to punitive damages for the environmental catastrophe.

The high court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Exxon’s appeal on February 27th.

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Tulsequah Chief Mine Comment Period and Public Hearing Time Changes

The public meeting has been rescheduled for Monday, Feb. 4, 2008, 7:00-9:30 pm at Centennial Hall in Juneau and the close of comment period has been changed to Feb 21, 2008. 

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Results of 2008 IPHC Annual Meeting

The IPHC meeting ended this morning, Friday January 18th with the announcement of the catch limits and other actions taken by the Commissioners.  In Alaska, the Commissioners accepted the staff catch limit recommendations.  The season dates will be March 8 to November 15, 2008

The 2008 Catch Limits

Area                 2007 Catch Limit          Staff Recommendation      2008 Catch Limit

2A                   1.34                             1.00                                         1.22

2B                    11.47                           8.06                                         9.00

2C                   8.51                             6.21                                         6.21

3A                   26.20                           24.22                                       24.22

3B                    9.22                             10.9                                         10.9

4A                   2.89                             3.10                                         3.10

4B                    1.44                             1.86                                         1.86

4CDE              4.10                             3.89                                         3.89

The Commissioners spoke specifically to the Area 2C charter situation.  They stated that they spent alot of time on the issue but that there was no way to change the harvest rate, or biomass to change the effect to the charter industry.  That further actions will be addressed at the NPFMC.

By the Commissioners accepting the staff catch limits this brings the charter GHL according to federal regulation to 930,000 lbs compared to the 1.432 that they have been operating under.


Other Actions:

The Commissioners adopted staff proposals to put in regulations the standard deduction of 10% for heading & gutting and 2% for ice and slime; further defining the sport regulations that it is illegal to fillet halibut beyond 4 fletches, 2 ventral and 2 dorsal with the skin; adopted the WDF sablefish logbook as a legal halibut logbook.  On public proposals submitted, the Commissioners adopted the proposals to prohibit tagging of halibut unless approved by IPHC or appropriate state/provincial governments, allowing the combining of Area 4 fish with the use of VMS.  Two public proposals were asked to be reworked for next year, these include allowing sport/personal use shellfish pots onboard and the prohibition of electric or hydraulic reels when sport fishing.

The Commissioners directed staff to analyze the issue of lowering the commercial size limit and the implications of; to analyze halibut by-catch issues and update the 1991 report with a workshop in 2009; in early fall of 2008 have a workshop on the apportionment, migration and harvest policies; write letters to NMFS enforcement and ADFG enforcement regarding charter enforcement activities and actions.

The tenative dates for the annual meeting in 2009 in Vancouver is the week of January 12th.

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IPHC Meets Jan 14-18

The IPHC will be meeting January 14-18, 2008 to determine the 2008 catch limits and season starting dates.  We will post the information as soon as they announce it.  The IPHC staff is recommending moving to a coastwise model after a scientific peer review and thoroughly answering questions raised last year when they recommended the new model.  The State of Alaska is supporting the change in the model as the best available science.  The State of Alaska also came out against the proposal requiring VMS and suggests that if IPHC believes that VMS is necessary to contact the appropriate regulatory body (in Alaska the NPFMC) in each country. 

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Ed Dersham Approved for the NPFMC

The Secretary of Commerce approved Governor Palin’s first choice, Ed Dersham for the NPFMC seat.  Ed will be replacing Ed Rasmusson who resigned in December. 

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Tanner Season

The 2008 tanner season will be 6 days in the core area and 11 days in the non-core areas.  The fishery starts on Feb. 12, 2008, 12:00 noon.  Registration deadline is January 14, 2008 and registering after this date will incur a $45 late fee.  The full announcement is located at: http://documents.cf1.adfg.state.ak.us/AdfgDocument.po?DOCUMENT=14717

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