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Agreement Reached to Maintain Longstanding State & Federal Boundaries for Fisheries Management in 2011

(Juneau) - Responding to an appeal from Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) has stated that a new 3-mile line established on NOAA nautical charts has no impact on state and federal fisheries management this year. Fishing regulations based on the longstanding maritime boundary lines that determine state and federal jurisdiction will remain in effect for 2011.

“I am pleased that NOAA Fisheries has recognized the serious impact of enforcing the new boundary lines,” said Commissioner Campbell. “It is unfortunate that fishermen were displaced from some historical fishing grounds in recent cod fisheries, but now we are back to the established lines and regulations while we work to resolve outstanding issues.”

The new lines were established by NOAA Office of Coast Survey, under authority of the U.S. Baseline Committee, as part of a nationwide mapping project. The process for changing lines off Alaska did not provide for consultation with the state, and did not contemplate immediate changes in fisheries management. There are a number of unresolved legal and technical concerns over the new lines. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources is leading state efforts to work with the U.S. Baseline Committee on a review of the methodology used to establish the new lines off Alaska.

The issues involving fisheries jurisdiction came to the forefront through a decision by the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement in late December to begin enforcing fisheries regulations utilizing a new 3-mile boundary line that is shown on recent NOAA nautical charts. That decision, now overturned, affected fishery management measures and permit requirements that have been adopted by Alaska Board of Fisheries and the federal North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council). Fisheries for Pacific cod in the waters of Kachemak Bay and the Kodiak Island area were the first to be affected.

In a February 28, 2011, letter to Commissioner Campbell, Eric Schwaab, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries stated that NOAA intends to proceed with fisheries management and enforcement for 2011 that recognizes the historical 3-mile lines. The NOAA Fisheries letter notes they will coordinate with the State of Alaska and the Council in considering what, if any, changes may be appropriate for long-term state and federal fisheries management.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) looks forward to working with NOAA Fisheries, the Alaska Board of Fisheries, and the Council to develop coordinated fisheries management solutions if changes are necessary.

For state-federal fisheries management boundary lines now in effect, see ADF&G groundfish/shellfish statistical area charts at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fishingCommercialByFishery.statmaps or ADF&G’s regulatory definition of state waters at 5 AAC 39.975(13).

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