Fisheries Service: Charter anglers can bag 2 halibut a day

Posted: Thursday, March 01, 2007

ANCHORAGE - The director of the National Marine Fisheries Service says charter boat anglers can keep two halibut a day instead of the one proposed by international regulators.

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"We rejected that," said William Hogarth, director of the National Marine Fisheries Service. In coming days, however, the Fisheries Service will come out with other alternatives to control the charter catch, he said.

The Seattle-based International Pacific Halibut Commission in January imposed a one-fish bag limit for charter boat anglers in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska.

The measure, which would have applied during certain weeks this summer, was meant to slow the charter halibut catch, which has surged in recent years.

The halibut commission is responsible for protecting halibut stocks off the U.S. and Canadian coasts, but its vote to cut the charter bag limit was subject to approval by the U.S. Commerce and State departments.

Both rejected the measure, said Hogarth, whose agency is part of the Commerce Department.

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Federal officials think a better way to settle the growing fish fight between commercial fishermen and charter boat operators is to find solutions through the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, based in Anchorage.

In an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, Hogarth said he doesn't believe the catch by one sector - the charter fleet - should be allowed to grow unabated.

"I love halibut. The only way I get halibut is for the commercial guys to catch it and put it on the market," he said.

"I think there's a balancing act. ... I don't think you can say that one group gets to take all they want and the others don't."

One measure under consideration by the North Pacific Council is limiting the number of halibut charter boats entering the business.

Charter fleets in other parts of the country, such as the Gulf of Mexico, already have gone to so-called limited entry, Hogarth said.

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