Southeast Alaska Guides Organization December 2017 Update - P.O.W. Report

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Southeast Alaska Guides Organization December 2017 Update

The following is from a newsletter sent by SEAGO, to read more from SEAGO [Click Here]

Magnuson-Stevens Act Reauthorization

Those of you tracking national legislation may have heard that Rep. Don Young (R-AK) is pushing forward a rewrite of the bill to reauthorize the MSA. Many of the proposals for change are coming from the recreational sector, which has a stronger national political position than ever before. SEAGO is excited about the opportunities this could bring Alaska in the long run, and remains cautious about some of the proposed changes in light of our unique situation in Alaska.

On its surface, increasing flexibility to modernize the MSA sounds like a great idea to account for the different management needs of the commercial and recreational fleet. When it comes to catching halibut in Alaska, however, the guided sportfishing fleet operates under a catch sharing plan with the commercial fleet. The allocation under our CSP is directly tied to the abundance of the halibut resource, and the success of the CSP requires an ongoing commitment to scientifically established annual catch limits, intended to protect our stock for the long term. Part of the proposals for amending the MSA ask Congress to disregard the existing science for creating annual catch limits, when what we need in Alaska is better data to work from.

If you want to protect our halibut and Chinook resources, we suggest advocating for improvements:

  • Support Council actions implementing cost-effective electronic monitoring across the commercial fleet
  • Support Council actions reducing bycatch of Pacific halibut and Chinook salmon, and tying bycatch to abundance
  • Create and/or support improved practices for collecting unguided recreational catch data, such as smart phone apps
  • Help create and/or support data collection for stock assessments, including vocally supporting MSA Reauthorization Sections aimed towards improving data collection and analysis
  • Push for improving public access to the Council process

These are only a few of the concrete actions you can take which will contribute to improving the health of our halibut stock. A Commentary recently released by Council member Andy Mezirow also addresses this issue from an Alaskan perspective. Let us know if you have other suggestions!

Latency is a No-Go, Rental Boat Registration Moves Forward

No Action on Latent Capacity

We spoke to many of you about the Council’s ideas for reducing the latent capacity of charter halibut permits (CHP). Having latent capacity roughly means that there are CHP holders who take fewer trips than available in the season (considered to run from February-December). If these CHP holders increase the number of trips they take, the increase in angler effort affects the upcoming season’s management measures. If the Council limits how many more trips CHP holders can take, it could be a step towards stabilizing management measures. It could also limit the business opportunities of some CHP holders.

Our discussions with you included questions about how likely an increase in trips really is, how CHPs would qualify, how recently purchased CHPs would be affected, and more. Your voice then came through loud and clear at the Council, which decided not to move this issue forward. Sportfishing representative Andy Mezirow explained the decision:

“I do not think the document provided any evidence that reducing a small amount of latency would have any effect. Any more effort in addition to where we are will begin to erode the financial viability of the charter fleet.” He also noted that moving this forward could “immediately create losers” among recent CHP purchasers, rural communities, and CQE groups, while increasing trips if folks aim to build up their catch history. The Council agreed with Mr. Mezirow’s motion unanimously.

Taken up at the same time was a proposal to increase the ownership cap on CHPs for the Recreational Quota Entity, which the Council also tabled until the RQE is formed and functioning.

Self-Guided Rental Boat Registration Moving Forward

The Council asked its staff to write an expanded discussion paper on this registration requirement. The paper will focus on the growth of the unguided rental boat industry as a response to the differences in regulations between the guided and unguided sector. The paper will lay out and analyze the administrative and other needs to create a registration for operations affiliated with saltwater guide businesses and estimate catch from this segment of the unguided sector. Having better catch information will help the Council decide whether it should take action in the future. The paper is on the agenda for the June 2018 meeting in Kodiak, but it may be rescheduled for an Anchorage meeting, so business owners can attend.

Read More: Comment Period December 2017 for the Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis Project (POW LLA)

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