International panel to vote on reducing halibut harvest levels

Posted: Thursday, January 18, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Charter boat anglers could see the bag limit on halibut decrease from two fish to one this summer under a proposal being voted on this week by the international panel that manages Pacific halibut.

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The proposal by the International Pacific Halibut Commission is the latest in a series of attempts to keep the growing halibut charter fleets in the two regions from exceeding annual harvest limits.

But tourism industry leaders are up in arms, saying a one-fish bag limit could cripple halibut charter operations this summer.

"It's bad for the state. It's bad for the economy. It's bad for coastal communities," said Ron Peck, executive director of the Alaska Tourism Industry Association.

Peck said charter anglers won't pay the going rate of $200 to $250 for a day charter trip just to catch one fish.

He said the tourism association prefers a proposal being considered by U.S. fishery officials for a moratorium on new halibut charter boat operators because "we realize something has to be done to prevent overfishing."

The proposal would reduce bag limits for halibut for several weeks of the summer.

The international halibut commission - composed of three U.S. and three Canadian officials - began deliberating in Victoria, British Columbia, on Tuesday.

The commission isn't likely to reach a decision until the end of the week, fishing industry officials said.

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