[Alaska] Taking the billy to Alaska halibut anglers

Discussion in 'Conservation, Fishery Politics and Management.' started by Sushihunter, Jan 19, 2011.

  1. Sushihunter

    Sushihunter Active Member


    Taking the billy to Alaska halibut anglers

    Craig Medred | Jan 19, 2011

    Just when Alaska fishing guides thought the heavy hand of the federal government couldn't get any heavier, along comes the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) with the announcement that it will this summer be illegal for guides of any sort in Alaska to take family, friends or relatives halibut fishing on their boat without buying a pricey, new limited entry permit.

    But wait, there's more.

    If you are average Joe Angler and take friends fishing for halibut, you, too, could be in trouble with the federal government if your friends buy the gas and beer.

    As the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), an agency under NOAA now sees things, "any person receiving compensation (whether or not they hold an annual sport guides license from ADF&G) would be considered a charter vessel guide and need a CHP for assisting a person who is catching and retaining halibut in Area 2C or 3A."

    A CHP is a charter halibut permit. Area 3A is all of Cook Inlet west of Anchorage, all of Resurrection Bay and waters surrounding Seward, and all of Prince William Sound plus the Gulf of Alaska along these areas. Area 2C is all of Southeast Alaska. ADF&G is the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, which requires all Alaska sport fishing guides to be licensed but does not require the average angler to get a guide license if he or she wants to take buddies, or Grandma Sally fishing for halibut -- and they want to help out with gas money, beer money or lunch. Helping out could be construed by the feds as compensation.

    This is a all a part of the federal governments new limited entry program for sport halibut in Alaska. There will be a full report on that program in Alaska Dispatch soon.

    How exactly NMFS agents will enforce the new, federal halibut law remains to be seen. When a federal enforcement officer was finally reached, he confessed that the law is open to interpretation. He compared it to the rules governing private pilots, who are allowed to share limited costs with passengers.

    Scott Meyer, a Homer-based biologist with Alaska Fish & Game, said state officials have been trying for some time to get the feds to relax the standards as now outlined in the "Small Entity Compliance Guide" for the soon-to-be implemented "Charter Halibut Limited Access Program."

    The state and the feds, he said, have some disagreement on the interpretation of the new federal regulations. The state doesn't think either recreational anglers with their friends or salmon-fishing guides using their boats to entertain friends or family should get in trouble for fishing for halibut in Cook Inlet.

    "We don't interpret the regulation that way," Meyer said, and he doesn't expect an Alaska Wildlife Trooper will bust you this summer if he spots your friends buying the gas for your boat in Ninilchik and later finds you fishing for halibut off Deep Creek, or if you're a Kenai River salmon guide found fishing with friends for halibut off Anchor Point on a Sunday or Monday in July when the Kenai is closed to guides.

    But a NOAA enforcement officer might write a ticket. And to be honest, Meyer added, there's really no way of knowing you would be in the clear with either.

    "I couldn't tell you for sure what either one of them would do," he said.

    Meyer is in Homer far removed from state decision makers. They are based hundreds of miles away in the state capitol in Juneau, where Meyer has been assured the bigwigs at the Alaska Department of Fish & Game are talking to the bigwigs at NMFS about what exactly this all means.

    Meanwhile, avoid any and all potential problems by buying a CHP, if you can get one. The federal government, which has entered the Alaska halibut fishery in a way it has entered no other sport fishery in America, has started handing out these permits to established charter boat operators, who are then able to sell them. There is a complicated, bureaucratic process for determining who has the right "history" in the halibut fishery to qualify for the initial, free permits. But if you get one, it's yours.
    Some of the permits that have already been issued for free, courtesy of the federal government, are showing up in the hands of brokers. So if you're one of 400 or so Kenai River sport fishing guides, and you want to take friends or visiting Aunt Lucy out halibut fishing in Cook Inlet on Sundays or Mondays during the king salmon season, when the Kenai is closed to guides, you could buy a $40,000 to $50,000 permit.

    Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  2. hali hunter

    hali hunter Member

  3. Rockfish

    Rockfish Well-Known Member

    Sounds like the sports fishing sector and voters in Alaska need to organize, conduct some town hall meetings and start holding their federal politicians feet to the fire as well.

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