Charter Halibut Management Measures for 2014
Since 2012 the North Pacific Council, NOAA Fisheries, Alaska Department of Fish (and Game (ADF&G) and International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) have cooperated on a joint process to use stakeholder input and agency expertise to develop recommendations for management measures to keep charter halibut harvests within their allocations in Area 2C (Southeast Alaska) and Area 3A (Southcentral Alaska) for implementation under IPHC Annual Management Measures. (A downloadable Fact Sheet here)
The first year of the new Catch Sharing Plan (CSP) is 2014; it replaces the Guideline Harvest Level Program. The CSP 1) defines an annual process for allocating halibut between the charter and commercial halibut fisheries in Area 2C and Area 3A, 2) establishes by regulation sector allocations that vary in proportion with changing levels of annual halibut abundance and that balance the differing needs of the charter and commercial halibut fisheries over a wide range of halibut abundance in each area, 3) describes a public process by which the Council may develop recommendations to the IPHC for charter angler harvest restrictions that are intended to limit harvest to the annual charter halibut fishery catch limit in each area, and 4) prohibits retention of halibut by skipper/crew while under charter. Link to the Catch Sharing Plan, and Catch Sharing Plan Final Rule.
On October 25, 2013, the Council’s Charter Management Implementation Committee requested analysis of projected charter yield under the following measures. The range of possible measures was provided by consulting with numerous charter organizations and charter halibut permit holders.
Area 2C: 1) One-fish bag limit and U45-O68 reverse slot limit (status quo), 2) One-fish bag limit with maximum size limit, 3) One-fish bag limit and annual limit combined with a maximum size limit, and 4) One-fish bag limit, and annual limit combined with a reverse slot limit.
Area 3A: 1) Two-fish bag limit, no size limit (status quo), 2) Two-fish bag limit with a maximum size limit on the second fish (one fish any size), 3) Two-fish bag limit ( any size) with annual limit, 4) Two-fish bag limit (any size) and prohibit harvest by skipper and crew (default under CSP), and 5) Two-fish bag limit (any size) combined with vessel trip limit of one trip per day.
Due to meeting schedules, the Council considers charter halibut management measures for Area 2C and Area 3A in 2014 to recommend to the IPHC as part of the CSP before the latter has determined the combined charter and commercial halibut allocation for each area at is January 2014 Annual Meeting. In lieu of final combined catch limits, results from the December 4 – 5, 2013 interim IPHC meeting were used as a benchmark. The halibut exploitable biomass increased by about 9% in Area 2C. The charter allocation resulting from the “blue line” (the current IPHC harvest policy to the stock assessment) for Area 2C is 760,000 pounds. The Pacific halibut exploitable biomass declined by more than 20% compared to 2013 in Area 3A. The IPHC “blue line” results in a charter allocation in Area 3A of 1.78 million pounds.
The charter allocations resulting from the interim IPHC meeting (at the “blue line”) are:
Area 2C: 18.3% of the combined commercial and charter catch limit
Area 3A: 18.9% of the combined commercial and charter catch limit
Under the Catch Sharing Plan, the charter allocations include the estimates of the amount of wastage that would occur in each fishery. The preliminary estimates of sport fishery release mortality from the charter sector accounted for 41,000 lb in Area 2C total and 36,000 lb in Area 3A.
On December 9, 2013 the Charter Management Implementation Committee 1) reviewed an analysis for setting 2014 charter halibut annual management measures, which was prepared by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Sportfish Division and 2) recommended management measures for Area 2C and Area 3A for 2014. The analysis accounted for estimates of wastage in each area. On December 12, 2013, the Council reviewed the ADF&G analysis and adopted the committee recommendations, based on reference (“blue line”) allocations of 760,000 lb in Area 2C and 1.78 million lb in Area 3A and adjustments for estimates of wastage in each area.
Area 2C: 1) One-fish daily bag limit and 2) Reverse slot limit of U44O76 (≤ 44 inches or ≥ 76 inches)
If the final charter allocation is sufficiently higher than the “blue line” to accommodate a change in the reverse slot limit, adjust the size of the lower limit up one inch. The next adjustment would be to reduce the upper limit to meet the allocation.
Area 3A: 1) Two-fish daily bag limit, 2) Maximum size of the second fish is 29 inches, and 3) One trip per day (limit each vessel to one trip per calendar day)
If the final charter allocation is sufficiently higher than the “blue line” to remove the trip limit, the measures would be a two-fish daily bag limit, one of which is equal to or less than 29 inches. As needed, the size of the second fish may be adjusted up or down to meet the allocation.
At its January 13 – 17, 2014 Annual Meeting, the IPHC adopted the above Council recommendations for setting charter management measures for Area 2C and Area 3A for 2014, when it adopted the CSP allocations for the commercial and charter halibut sectors in its 2014 Annual Management Measures. (The report of the IPHC meeting can be found here. The charter allocation for Area 2C is 761,280lb and in Area 3A is 1,782,270lb.) Area 2C and Area 3A management measures for 2014 will be implemented under final rulemaking for the IPHC Annual Management Measures, likely by March 2014.
Jane DiCosimo can be contacted for more information on Pacific halibut management.