The Council took final action on a package that would allow the formation of a non-profit charter halibut recreational quota entity (RQE) to purchase and hold commercial halibut quota share (QS), to augment the charter catch limits in IPHC Regulatory Area 2C and Area 3A. Under the Council’s preferred alternative, any IFQ annually generated from the RQE’s QS holdings would augment the pounds allocated to the sector through the Catch Sharing Plan (CSP). The charter catch limit plus any pounds of IFQ holdings would be the new basis on which halibut charter annual management measures are established (for example, size limits, annual limits, day of the week closure, etc.). In this way, RQE QS holdings would allow for an opportunity for the charter halibut sector to reduce the restrictiveness of annual management measures for all charter anglers in Regulatory Areas 2C and 3A.
The Council’s preferred alternative sought to balance efficacy of this program, while mitigating the negative impacts on other halibut user groups by including a series of transfer restrictions. An RQE would have an annual transfer restriction of 1% of the commercial QS in Area 2C (based on the total Area 2C 2015 QS pool) and 1.2% of the commercial QS in Area 3A (based on the total Area 3A 2015 QS pool). The Council’s preferred alternative also recommends a combined cumulative limit for both guided angler fish (GAF) usage and the RQE holdings of no more than 10% of the commercial QS in Area 2C and 12% of the commercial QS holdings in Area 3A (both based on the 2015 QS pools). The Council recommended GAF transfers would be restricted based on the annual RQE holdings.
In addition, the Council identified several specific prohibitions and limitations on RQE QS acquisition. In Area 2C an RQE would be limited to purchasing no more than 10% of the D Class QS pool (in Area 2C), and no more than 10% of the B Class QS pool (in Area 2C), and would be prohibited from purchasing blocked QS less than or equal to 1,500 pounds (in 2015 pounds). In Area 3A, an RQE would be prohibited from purchasing both D Class QS and blocked QS less than or equal to 1,500 pounds (in 2015 pounds).
The combination of the RQE’s IFQ and the charter catch limit may allow annual management measures for the charter sector to be relaxed. However, the annual management measures for charter halibut anglers could only be relaxed up to the limits in place for unguided anglers (i.e., 2 fish of any size). Charter anglers would not be allowed to catch more fish than unguided anglers, even if the RQE held enough QS to do so. The Council’s PA included provisions to redistribute excess pounds of IFQ in the event that the RQE held more QS than was necessary to reach the unguided limit in either Area 2C or 3A. In this case, there would be an annual redistribution of the resulting pounds of IFQ to some of the commercial sector participants, issued at no cost to the recipient. The Council’s preferred alternative recommends that 50% of this “excess” IFQ would be redistributed to all catcher vessels QS holders in the applicable area who hold not more than 32,333 QS units in Area 2C and 47,469 QS units in Area 3A, proportionately, based on their QS holdings (i.e., the amount of QS that yielded 2,000 pounds of IFQ in 2015). The remaining 50% of “excess” IFQ would be redistributed equally among the Community Quota Entities (CQEs) that held halibut QS in the applicable area in the preceding year. If no CQE held QS in the corresponding area, that portion of the excess IFQ would not be redistributed and would be left in the water for conservation.
The Council included a policy statement about the intended use of RQE funds, and a requirement to submit articles of incorporation, management organization, bylaws, and a list of board members (with some Council guidance on the representation of the board) to NMFS in order to be approved as an eligible entity to purchase and hold QS. An RQE would also be required to submit an annual report to the Council. The Council’s preferred alternative lists several items of RQE activity and expenses that would be required in the annual report. Staff contact is Sarah Marrinan.