ANCHORAGE - Kevin Duffy, Gov. Tony Knowles' point man on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, said he plans to ask for a vote to rescind a controversial April decision to award individual catch shares to halibut charter boats.
The governor has criticised that decision, saying it would transfer a public resource to private charter boat operators "without any compelling reason to do so." The federal council regulates commercial fishing off Alaska.
At a council meeting in Kodiak on Monday, Duffy announced he will move to reverse the quota vote that at the council's October meeting in Seattle.
The 11-member council is made up of industry and academic people, as well as federal officials and state representatives from Alaska, Washington and Oregon.
The council voted 8-3 on April 14 to award individual quotas for charter boats as a way to settle the long-running feud between the charter and commercial fishing fleets.
Commercial halibut fishermen worried the charter fleet could continue to grow, catching more fish at their expense. Proponents, who include many charter and commercial fisherman, said the individual quota program would cap the overall amount of fish available to the charter fleet and also give individual charter boat captains their own share. Charter operators could expand by buying more of the transferrable quotas to serve their fishing clients.
One council member, Anchorage businessman and sportfishing advocate Bob Penney, decried the quotas as bad public policy that would make charter captains rich and could drive up charter prices.
Knowles has asked the U.S. commerce secretary, who has final say on council actions, to reject the quota plan.
Duffy said Wednesday he's not sure if he will have the votes to win in October. He and Knowles favor a milder plan that would set a generous harvest limit for the charter fleet. That plan would prevent any new boats from coming in and encourage localized plans to balance halibut catches among commercial, charter and sport users.
Backers of the quota and Duffy plans say both would preserve the current legal bag limit of two fish per day for charter anglers. Duffy takes heart in the fact that he offered his plan in April and it failed by a vote of only 7-4, compared to the 8-3 defeat he suffered on the quota plan.
Another factor is that the council will look significantly different by October, when two new Knowles appointees are expected to be seated.
One of those, Stephanie Madsen of Juneau, supported Duffy's alternative in her position on a council advisory panel at the April meeting.
She said Wednesday that, if her council nomination is confirmed by the commerce secretary, she would "have to hear his reasoning" before supporting Duffy's motion to rescind.
The other nominee, commercial fisherman Stosh Anderson of Kodiak could not be reached for comment.