Over the last few issues I have seen the opinion expressed by various commercial charter boat owners that individual fishing quotas for their industry is a terrible thing. No industry that relies on a natural resource can have unbridled growth. The halibut fishery in Southeast is one of the most highly regulated and monitored fisheries in the world.
Using historical catch data the National Marine Fisheries Service implemented the IFQ system for commercial longliners in 1995 over an absolute storm of protest. No commercial entity wants limits put on their production capabilities. Despite all the rhetoric and painful transition the IFQ program has proved to be an unbridled success from both a biological and economic stand point. Business expansion remains a viable opportunity with open market trading of quota share.
The commercial sport charter fleet needs to stop the charade of being sportsmen. They compete directly with local sportsmen on the same fishing grounds with primarily out of state clients. They are a growing commercial entity using a public resource at levels that eclipse historical catch data. It's time for the commercial charter fleet to step up to the table and face the same hard decisions that the longline fleet did 10 years ago. No program of entry limitation will be all inclusive for current participants but the transferability of quota share and our free market will allow new entrants and business expansion in the commercial charter fleet. Some form of limitation on this industry is inevitable. Let's stop the foot dragging and address the issue in some rationale fashion.
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