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Begich to NOAA: Extend Public Comment Period for Halibut Catch Sharing Plan

Stakeholders Need More Time to Review and Comment

In a letter to Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Acting Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Senator Mark Begich requested a 45-day extension to the public comment period for the proposed Halibut Catch Sharing Plan, reminding a federal government agency once again that it is pointless to hold a public comment period in Alaska during fishing season. 

In the letter sent today, Senator Begich made the following comments:

“This halibut catch sharing plan has been years in the making and I recognize the importance of its implementation for the stability and management of the halibut fishery.  But limiting the review period to July and early August, the peak fishing season for charter and commercial fishermen alike, is insufficient to meet the obligation to gather meaningful public comment.

“Years ago, one of NOAA’s predecessors described the Alaska summer, saying: ‘Everyone is worked to his full capacity and nothing is thought of, talked of, and dreamed of, but fish.’  That remains true today and I do not believe this limited period affords adequate time for fishermen to review and comment on a 134-page proposed rule.

“I have asked for 45-day extension of the public comment period for the recently proposed halibut catch sharing plan to allow all stakeholders time to review and make comment on this plan.  It is my hope this would still allow sufficient time to implement the plan by 2014.

“The North Pacific Fishery Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service have done a lot of work and research into this plan.  They rely on science which leads to good decisions, and I have made it clear to NOAA that decisions which have economic affects must involve the public along the way.”

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