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Public to comment on halibut management plan

Posted: August 1, 2011 - 8:38pm

KENAI — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is currently taking public input on a management plan it hopes will better sustain a healthy halibut population in the central Gulf of Alaska and Southeast fisheries.

According to the Peninsula Clarion, the plan comes in the form of a “catch sharing plan” a draft rule recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to establish a clear stock allocation between the commercial and charter sectors fishing Alaska’s central and southeast areas.

“The primary message is that halibut is a fully allocated fishery and the catch sharing plan is really is trying to keep all sectors within their catch limits,” said NOAA fisheries management specialist Rachel Baker.

Currently, the two interests are managed separately.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission determines the total amount of halibut that can be harvested without causing conservation problems in an area, Baker said.

Then, IPHC subtracts the projected non-commercial halibut harvest guided charter, unguided sport and subsistence from the total. After a few other policy considerations, the IPHC then gives what is left over to the commercial fishermen.

The catch sharing plan would primarily make three changes, Baker said.

The first action it would allow for is the allocation of halibut harvest numbers to be combined between both the charter and commercial fisheries.

The IPHC would determine the total harvest number, then subtract all non-commercial and non-charter uses mostly unguided sport harvest and subsistence leaving a combined catch for both charter and commercial.

The second action would be to determine preseason harvest restrictions for charter anglers in those areas that are intended to limit harvest to that annual charter allocation, she said.

The catch share plan would allow for more proactive fish management and conservation, Baker said.

“The primary difference and why I keep saying it is proactive is because the guideline harvest levels we currently have doesn’t have any management measures associated with it to be implemented concurrently,” she said. “Whereas the catch sharing plan you establish the charter catch limit but there are also management measures associated with it that are recommended and implemented at the same time.”

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