Charters should be subject to same rules

Posted: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Since the 1920s, the International Pacific Halibut Commission has been managing halibut stocks for one purpose: sustainability. The commercial halibut fishery has become the model for the entire world.

The basis for figuring the health of the halibut biomass is done with the best science available. A percentage of that biomass is allocated to all user groups. Personal use and subsistence users are not affected. Only the people who make money on the resource are.

The charter sectors argument that "we are only a taxi service" does not ring true. They are a commercial enterprise, and should be subject to the same cuts as other commercial interests. If you have ever seen the amount of fish boxes leaving the state, you'd have to wonder if all - or any - of these millions of pounds of fish are tallied up. What's wrong with making sure that they are counted, so that those numbers can be considered in the overall picture of the health of the halibut biomass?

The nonresident, unguided and charter fleets have grown to unsustainable levels, and they fight any conservation efforts that will keep us all fishing into perpetuity. You can't keep beating down a depressed fish stock and expect it to rebound. The "give it all to me now" mentality does not work here.

I've fished halibut commercially since the mid-1970s, and still had to pay a quarter million dollars to buy Individual Fishing Quotas in order to stay in the fishery. The charter fleet pays nothing, and hey do their best to derail any attempt to regulate them. We've taken huge quota reductions for three years running, reducing my quota to less than half. I thought about selling out, then I got angry. I'm a third generation Alaskan, and this is my occupation. I refuse to be pushed out. If I go down, at least I'll go down swinging. Charter operators, you've met the enemy, but it's not me - it's you.

Andrew Massey


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