Charter Groups Call On Governor Parnell to Weigh-In On 37” Maximum Halibut Restriction

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Charter organizations are anxious for Governor Parnell to weigh in on protecting Southeast Alaskan jobs and local economies tied to charter halibut harvest. Overly restrictive regulations developed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission will needlessly cost Southeast communities.

The Southeast Alaska Guides Organization (SEAGO) and Alaska Charter Association (ACA) call for Governor Parnell to step off the sidelines and weigh-in on the 37” maximum size restriction imposed on the guided recreational fleet by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) in January. The groups contend that the regulation overreaches and will, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game analysis, result in the charter fleet undershooting the harvest target by 20% or more.

“The 37” maximum size restriction will inflict significant economic damage on charter fishermen, the associated businesses that the charter fleet supports, and the coastal communities of Southeast Alaska,” said Tom Ohaus, SEAGO President. “To impose regulations designed to hold the fleet within the GHL would be one thing, but based on the analysis from the State of Alaska, this regulation makes significant cuts above and beyond what are necessary to hold the fleet to the target.”

ACA & SEAGO support the analysis by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADFG). While the IPHC analysis simply divided the GHL by the number of fish caught in 2010 to reach the 37” maximum size restriction, the ADF&G analysis was much more thorough. “The IPHC’s analysis figures that every fish harvested by an angler fishing from a charter boat will be the maximum 37”. Not 35”, not 33”, not 28” but always 37”,” said Greg Sutter, ACA President. “The Fish & Game’s analysis looked at the number of fish harvested under 37” when there was no size restriction, and assumed the same number of fish under 37” would be harvested with the new maximum size restriction.”

After reviewing the analysis provided by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, SEAGO and ACA officially endorse a 45” maximum size restriction and ask Alaska Legislators, the Governor, the State’s Congressional Delegation, and regulators to do what is needed to implement restrictions less harmful than the 37” maximum size. According to the ADFG table, a 45 inch maximum holds the charter fleet within the GHL, assuming a 10% reduction in harvest. A 10% reduction in harvest seems conservative given major changes in the charter fishery including a new limited entry program and a one per day bag limit on halibut with a maximum size.

Both ACA and SEAGO believe the IPHC failed to incorporate potential harvest reductions in their analysis that will result from the limited entry fishing regime the fleet will be under starting this year and didn’t properly consider the negative marketing effects of the maximum size restriction itself. It is estimated that up to 40% of the charter boats fishing halibut in Southeast during 2010 did not qualify for charter halibut permits. “It defies reason and logic to assume a maximum size restriction and a limited entry program will have absolutely no effect on charter harvest,” stated Ohaus.

While Governor Parnell technically does not have the authority to change the restriction himself, both SEAGO and ACA believe it is his responsibility to advocate for the well being of coastal economies and jobs in Alaska. “This is not an issue that should pit the commercial fleet against the charter fleet,” said SEAGO interim Executive Director Forrest Braden. “This is an issue of whether or not the charter fleet should be allowed to harvest its entire allocation under the GHL.” Braden went on to compare the 37” maximum decision by the IPHC to be equivalent of them issuing the commercial catch limit, followed immediately by a regulation that restricted them to harvesting 80% of that limit. “There is no doubt in our mind, if that were the situation, the Governor would be weighing in on the matter. Governor Parnell made Alaskan jobs the cornerstone of his campaign last fall and has continued carrying that message into his administration. We are anxiously waiting for him to come out in support of the jobs of local charter fishermen as well as the many businesses and communities we support.”

A study funded by the Alaska Legislature and produced by Southwick Associates in 2007 showed the sport fishing industry in Southeast generates $300 million in economic benefits and 3,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The IPHC decision must be approved by Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A decision on the issue is expected any day. This is not the time for our Governor to sit on the sidelines.

SEAGO is a Southeast Alaska based non-profit organization representing charter and lodge businesses throughout the Southeast region.

ACA is a Homer based non-profit organization representing charter and lodge businesses statewide.

Contact:

Forrest Braden
SEAGO Interim Executive Director
P.O. Box 422 Sitka, Alaska 99835
Phone: 907 747-963

Greg Sutter
ACA President
P.O. Box 478 Homer, Alaska 99603
907 399-4856

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