The December meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is loaded with halibut issues. Between December 10th and 14th the Council will address not one but four halibut issues with potential to impact your fishery. Please consider attending the Council meeting to testify and safeguard both the resource and your investments. If you cannot attend the meeting, please send comments!
Issues before the Council include: 1) Halibut charter RQE; 2) Halibut (bycatch) Framework; 3) Retention of halibut in pots, and 4) Review of halibut/sablefish IFQ program. Watch for additional action alerts later this week on items 2-4.
The Halibut Charter Regional Quota Entity (RQE) program- (aka the CATCH Plan) - would allow the charter sector to form one or two non-profit entities with authority to purchase halibut QS in Areas 2C and 3A. The entities would use federal funds, state loans, private grants or a tax on charter clients to purchase commercial quota, and then make this quota available to charter clients. Proponents claim that the current charter allocation “may not be sufficient to ensure long-term planning and stability in regulation for all guided anglers.”
Although it is significant that the charter sector is looking to purchase rather than take more quota, the proposed “market-based mechanism” only allows the charter sector’s share of the halibut pie to increase (and the commercial slice to decrease) and pits outside funding against individual commercial fishermen in the QS market—i.e., charter operators have no skin in the game and the charter sector has nothing to lose. The rationale also ignores the fact that at these low levels of abundance commercial fishermen, processors, suppliers and consumers also have insufficient halibut quota—that’s just the reality of resource conservation. Finally, RQE proponents ignore the impact of the proposal on halibut QS prices and entry-level costs.
On December 10th and 12th the Advisory Panel and the Council will take testimony on proceeding with the Halibut Charter RQE. YOUR COMMENTS ARE IMPORTANT! Please take time to write a letter or email to the Council by 5PM December 1. Points to hit in your letter:
1. Identify your comments as Agenda item: C6 Halibut Charter RQE
2. Your position on the halibut RQE proposal.
3. Your view on whether quota available to the commercial sector at current low levels of halibut abundance is “sufficient.”
4. Your view on social-economic impacts of the RQE proposal on the commercial fishing industry, remote coastal communities, processors, subsistence users, and consumers who purchase halibut in stores or restaurants.
5. Your thoughts on the effect of adding another well-financed buyer to the halibut QS pool.
6. Your demand for a true market based mechanism—i.e., if the charter fleet can buy quota from commercial fishermen, then commercial fishermen should be allowed to purchase charter permits and move quota back into the commercial sector.
End by reminding the Council that halibut fishermen worked for TWENTY YEARS to get the halibut charter catch sharing plan (CSP) in place and that reopening the allocation issue after only two years of the CSP is both unacceptable and enormously destabilizing to the commercial industry. Send comments to: npfmc.comments@noaa..gov
Background materials (October 2014):
FINAL MOTION: CATCH Charter Halibut 1014.pdf