NOAA Fisheries asks fishery council to take another look at halibut plan
Dutch Harbor, AK – Citing policy and technical issues raised by public comments, NOAA Fisheries yesterday asked members of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to take another look at the proposed halibut catch sharing plan for Southeast and Southcentral Alaska.
Glenn Merrill, head of NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Region division of sustainable fisheries, said that the agency has conducted a preliminary review of more than four thousand public comments received on the proposed rule to implement a halibut catch sharing plan.
“After our initial review, we believe that a number of the comments raised issues that may require additional input from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council before NOAA Fisheries can proceed to a final rule,” Merrill told the Council. “We are still moving forward with the rule-making process, but we are getting some issues clarified and refining the rule based on public comments and additional Council input.”
Specifically, numerous commenters raised concerns about:
(1) Management implications at lower levels of abundance;
(2) Economic impacts of the catch sharing plan; and
(3) Methods for calculating the average weight for guided angler fish that may be leased from commercial IFQ operators reporting guided angler fish.
Merrill said further review of public comments may also raise other technical issues that may require additional input from the Council. Although some of these issues could be resolved by NOAA Fisheries, Merrill said others raise important policy and implementation questions that are best addressed by the Council. NOAA Fisheries will provide a briefing to the Council at a future meeting requesting additional guidance from the Council on specific topics of concern.
Merrill said NOAA Fisheries strongly encourages the Council to schedule time at its upcoming December meeting, or during a special meeting if the Council determines that is appropriate, to consider guidance to the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) for 2012 halibut management. In formulating that guidance, at a minimum, NOAA Fisheries encouraged the Council to consider the existing guideline harvest level allocation and the suite of management measures developed under the catch sharing plan to manage the charter halibut fleet within its allocation.
The IPHC meets in Anchorage in January 2012 to set fishing levels and management measures for halibut along the Pacific Coast, from Oregon through Alaska, including Canada.
On the web: http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/newsreleases/2011/halibut092911.htm
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