The recent response from Tom Dawson regarding the Empire's editorial piece on halibut charter fishing does little to further objective discussion regarding the charter halibut fishing industry.
First, Mr. Dawson says that "licensed sport fishermen" are simply providing access to a public resource, halibut, for those that do not have access to the water in some other manner. Well, I guess that one could argue that commercial fishermen are simply providing access to the same resource for people that may never get to Alaska but happen to like halibut for a meal once in a while.
To imply that greed was the motivating factor behind individual fishing quotas is a real stretch and clearly shows Mr. Dawson is not familiar with or honest about the basis for implementation of the IFQ program. IFQs were simply a response to demand for a safer fishery, better product for market and better management of the resource. While there were some drawbacks in moving to an IFQ system, overall it has resulted in a much better fishery.
Mr. Dawson also should look within his own industry before attempting to bash others. The current charter fishing industry has no limit on the size of halibut that may be retained. (Commercial regulations require halibut to be 32 inches to be retained.) I regularly see charter boats coming in at the end of the day, during the summer, with what are commonly referred to as pingpong paddles or juvenile halibut, halibut as small as 18 inches and just a few pounds. In an effort to "guarantee" a client fish, some skippers will throw anything on the deck. Interestingly enough, I seldom see anyone who fish halibut on their own bring pingpong paddles in. I believe a 32-inch size limit for charter halibut fishing should be implemented just as there is a 28-inch size limit for retention of king salmon regardless of whether it is sport, charter or commercially caught.
Reasonable guidelines and limits for the charter halibut industry will help protect the resource, provide for better utilization of the resource and ultimately result in better opportunities for clients and halibut charter operators alike.
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