Alaska Slams Door Shut on Barn Door Halibut!
Dateline – Alaska, Areas 2C & 3A – The usual group of Federal alphabet soup fisheries agencies once again issued devastating news about halibut fishing this year. NOAA, NMFS, IPHC teamed up to close the door on legally keeping halibut over 37-inches.
Alaska now has a new Charter Halibut Permit program that will eliminate about 35% of the halibut charter businesses. Many of these “Mom & Pop” charters will just go out of business. The new CHP permit was made available to skippers/charters who could verify a history in the sport halibut fishery dating back to 2004. Those who could prove their history received free permits from NMFS. These permits can be sold, causing a supply in demand situation for skippers and charter businesses who need extra angler permits. At press time these permits were selling for $5,000 or more per angler permit.
Supply and demand will no doubt drive charters rates higher as anglers outnumber permits during prime dates. However, the question remains whether sport anglers will pony up more than $185 per person to catch just one small halibut 37-inches or smaller. In terms of pounds per fish, the biggest halibut an angler could catch would weigh just 20 to 24-pounds. Eyeballing halibut in the water will be next to impossible and require anglers to unnecessarily handle halibut out of the water to put a tape measure on them. From a sports fishing and conservation point of view this will not work for the halibut or anglers. To the contrary, commercial anglers will not be allowed to keep fish under 37-inches, which in my opinion puts another wedge between commercial and sports anglers.
Under the new law any licensed guide will not be able to retain fish unless they are fishing aboard a vessel that has CHP permits. Additionally, anyone who accepts gas money, donuts, or anything in trade will be considered a charter, which by legal definition will require the skipper to have a CHP permit to keep halibut. Any skipper who did not qualify for a CHP or could not afford one will be prohibited from halibut fishing, even for personal use.
My Thoughts About Commercial Individual Fishing Quotas
Commercial anglers own fishing quotas. These problems about quotas stem from a group who are allowed to own a percentage of a public resource. Unlike farmers who own, lease or rent land for crops, commercial anglers harvest in public waters. And unlike farmers, commercial anglers do not plant seeds or eggs in this case, and nurture their crop. Commercial halibut anglers do not contribute equally per pound to the economy either. As halibut fishing continued to gain popularity among sports anglers they harvested more pounds of halibut. The alphabet soup agencies who set harvest levels then must adjust harvest based on these user groups as well as subsistence anglers. Sports anglers typically harvest about 12 percent of the total allowable harvest. When the harvest goes over by either group harvest levels must be reduced. In Alaska the commercial lobby is so powerful sports anglers don’t have a prayer for equity and equal treatment.
Sport Anglers should stand together and let all of these government agencies and politicians know how they feel about these new regulations. Call them, write them and e-mail them with your feelings about these ridiculous new halibut rules in Southeast Alaska!
Agencies to Contact Regarding Sport Halibut Fishing Regulations
Alaska Politicians to Contact Regarding Halibut Fishing Regulations
Alaska Halibut Fishing Regulations Story Links