At the May Special Council meeting the Council took action to recommend less restrictive charter halibut management measures for International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) Regulatory Area 2C and 3A for the remainder of the 2020 fishing season. The Council requests that the IPHC call an intersessional meeting to consider this recommended change for emergency action.
This decision was in response to a proposal received from Area 2C and 3A charter representatives related to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the charter halibut fishery. Within the proposal, charter representatives submitted two requests. The first request was to relax the established Area 2C and 3A charter halibut management measures (e.g. bag limits and size restrictions) for 2020. Significant charter cancellations and a large reduction in angler interest is likely to result in lower than expected levels of charter fishing effort than analysis suggested in December of 2019. Relaxing management measures are expected to provide some additional market opportunity for this struggling sector while still keeping each Regulatory Area under its allocation as established by the Catch Sharing Plan.
The Council recommended the following changes for Regulatory Area 2C and Area 3A for the remainder of the 2020 season:
|Current management measures in 2020||Recommended management measures for the remainder of 2020|
|Area 2C||One-fish daily bag limit with a reverse slot limit; halibut that is 40 inches or less or 80 inches or more (U40/O80)||One-fish daily bag limit with a reverse slot limit; halibut that is either 45 inches or less or 80 inches or more (U45/O80)|
|Area 3A||A two-fish bag limit, one fish of any size, and one fish with a 26-inch size limit
||A two-fish bag limit, one fish of any size, and one fish with a 32-inch size limit
These measures were chosen based on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s analysis which demonstrated different levels of reduced effort necessary to keep the charter sector under their catch limits for 2020. For Area 2C, a reverse slot limit with an upper limit of 80 inches and a lower limit of 45 inches is expected to be a conservative approach to relaxing charter management measures. Given the vast majority of the 2C charter anglers are non-Alaskan residents, many of whom arrive in Alaska via cruise ship, it is expected that cancellation of cruise ships, travel restrictions and general aversion to travel will significantly reduce fishing effort in this area, likely beyond this magnitude. The Council’s recommended changes for Area 3A address the need to decrease the uncertainty in removals that would result from allowing 2-fish of any size and increase the likelihood of remaining within the Area 3A allocation, while also accounting for the expectation of reduced charter fishing effort.
The Council did not choose to link the change in management measures to State of Alaska mandated travel restrictions as was proposed by the charter representatives. While these travel restrictions will likely have an impact on the tourism economy in Alaska, including the charter halibut sector, other factors such as cruise ship cancellations and widespread concerns about public health will likely continue to limit travel into the summer of 2020. Moreover, it may be operationally difficult to link these management processes, particularly if mandates are modified rather than removed or if they are removed and reinstated throughout the year. Management measures that switch multiple times in the season may be difficult to enforce and increase the likelihood of non-compliance.
The charter representatives’ second request was for a rollover of unused charter allocation from 2020 to 2021 in regulatory Area 2C and 3A. The Council is not recommending a rollover of unused 2020 charter allocation at this time. This issue may be reconsidered depending on the extend of charter allocation that remains unfished in 2020. However, the IPHC Secretariat’s comments made clear that this is an allocative issue by nature as projected harvests that are not completely taken in 2020 will be factored into the stock assessment and population dynamics in the subsequent year.
Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.