NPFMC plans final action on halibut sport fishing limits, permits

Initial review set on PSC Chinook salmon for non-Pollock CV groundfish trawlers

Federal fisheries managers plan final action in April on proposals that would require annual renewal of charter halibut permits and for new restrictions to limit guided sport halibut harvests.

The two issues are scheduled for several hours of discussion and a vote of decision on April 5, during the spring meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage.

The council’s preliminary preferred alternative for an annual renewal process for charter halibut permits includes a requirement for charter halibut permit holders to renew those permits annually through an application to the Restricted Access Management Program of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Permit holders would have to include on the application their permit number, along with the permit holder’s name, address, phone number, and or email address and the holder’s ownership structure.

During its initial consideration of the permit renewal options last October the Council added another option for consideration that would include a question on the application on the permit holder’s use and leasing behavior. At the time the council neither adopted or rejected that option, leaving it on the table for further consideration.

The intent of the proposed action, the council said, is to provide more complete and useful information to evaluate whether changes to its charter halibut permit program are necessary as a result of changes in ownership and participation of charter halibut permit holders, to facilitate retirement of non-transferable permits when ownership changes, and to improve the ability of enforcement agents to ensure valid permits are being used.

Also up for final action is a decision on the mixing of halibut caught under guided and unguided conditions on the same vessel.

Regulations on halibut harvests are different for guided and unguided halibut fishing trips.  Unguided anglers may harvest halibut of any size without restriction and are not subject to an annual catch limit, while anglers harvesting halibut aboard charter boats are subject to restrictions on daily bag limits, size, daily closures and annual catch limits.

After review of a discussion paper on the matter in February 2017, the council initiated an analysis for limiting the mixing of guided and unguided halibut on the same vessel. After an initial review draft was presented at its October 2017 meeting, the council selected as its preliminary preferred alternative an option to implement International Pacific Halibut Commission annual management measures for guided sport fishing for all halibut onboard the fishing vessels in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska if halibut harvested using sport fishing guide services is possessed with halibut harvests without those charter services.

Several salmon measures are also scheduled for action at the spring meeting, including an initial review of king salmon prohibited species catch limit adjustments in the Gulf of Alaska catcher vessel fleet. The council is considering action to modify the Chinook salmon prohibited species catch limits for the non-Pollock catcher vessel groundfish trawl fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska.

One alternative could increase the annual Chinook prohibited species catch limit for non-Pollock non-rockfish program catcher vessels from 2,700 fish by 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 fish, or it could allow for year-to-year rollovers of unused prohibited species catch kings.  Another alternative could increase the king salmon prohibited species catch limit for the rockfish program catcher vessel sector from 1,200 fish to 300, 600 or 900 fish or allow for year-to-year rollovers of unused prohibited species kings. Under either alternative, another option offers three suboptions to cap the rollover at 25 percent, 50 percent or 75 percent of the sector’s base annual prohibited species catch limit.

The complete council agenda is online at http://legistar2.granicus.com/npfmc/meetings/2018/4/977_A_North_Pacific_Council_18-04-02_Meeting_Agenda.pdf

The meeting will be broadcast at https://npfmc.adobeconnect.com/april2018

Motions will be posted at this website following the meeting.