Homer Alaska - Seawatch

Story last updated at 6:27 PM on Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Deadline to apply for IPHC seat March 19

Two seats are opening up on the International Pacific Halibut Commission, and NOAA is seeking nominations for Alaskans to fill one of those seats for a two-year term with the possibility of re-appointment.

Nominations are made to NOAA, which is part of the Department of Commerce, which then goes through a selection process with the Department of State to pick finalists to pass on to President Obama, who makes the final choice, according to Patrick Moran with NOAA's office of internal affairs.

"We're the facilitators," Moran said. "We're the ones responsible for collecting the nominations, and then there's a consultative process internally."

NOAA is looking for nominees to represent the commercial or recreational/charter industry, who are expected to have a knowledge of the issues associated with the IPHC fishery.

"It's a pretty broad set of criteria," Moran said.

There is a relatively small time commitment involved, according to the description in the Federal Register which reads: "In their official IPHC duties, Commissioners represent the interests of the United States and all of its stakeholders in the Pacific halibut fishery. These duties require a modest amount of travel (typically two or three trips per year lasting less than a week), and travel expenses are paid by the U.S. Department of State. Commissioners receive no compensation for their services."

However, there is a little bit more to it, according to Moran.

"Essentially, you're following the issues, there will be consultations along the way. It's not a great deal of time, it's certainly not a full- or half-time job."

Although this year's annual meeting took place in Anchorage, most of the time it alternates between a Canadian city, either Vancouver or Victoria, B.C., and Seattle.

In making nominations, or nominating one's self, beyond residential status NOAA is looking for information about the nominee's experience in either the commercial halibut industry or the recreational and/or charter fishery, or generally related to the halibut fishery.

The seat is open to a broad range of experience, Moran said.

"It could be on the processing side, it could be on the commercial, the recreational/charter side, it could be working for the (North Pacific Fisheries) Management Council doing something, or it could be in fisheries science related to halibut. There are a lot of different folks doing work that's related, and any of those folks would meet the basic qualifications.

"We're looking for someone who's aware of the issues, essentially, and that could be the biological issues, or it may be the policy issues," he said. "It just sort of depends on the applicant."

The seats are opening up at a time when the fishery is in turmoil, with quotas being slashed in most areas and dire warnings of more cuts to come, largely as a result of under-estimating removals of legal-sized halibut for several years, but also because of the continuing problem of halibut taking much longer to reach the 32-inch size necessary to recruit into the commercial fishery.

The cuts to waters in Alaska for the 2012 fishery come to 22 percent from last year's catch, including a 17 percent cut to area 3A, which includes Homer.

Nominations for U.S. Commissioners to the IPHC should be made in writing to: Patrick E. Moran, Office of International Affairs, National Marine Fisheries Service,1315 East-West Highway, Sil-ver Spring, MD 20910. Nominations can also be made by fax to (301) 713-2313, or by email to pat.moran@noaa.gov. For more information, contact Patrick Moran at (301) 427-8370. Details about the nominating process and requirements can be found in the Federal Register at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-02-16/pdf/2012-3697.pdf.

Nominations are due by March 19.

The Bristol Bay Times is reporting that voters in Dillingham will go to the polls April 10 to decide whether or not to annex the waters of the Nushagak Commercial Salmon District, which would allow the city to impose a raw fish tax and sales tax.

The Local Boundary Commission has already approved the move, but the Dillingham City Council thought it was a decision that should be put to a vote of the people.

"Annexation can be a done deal at this point," Dillingham City Manager Dan Forester told the Times, "but the council said when they started this process that the intent was to get all the approval in place so the community itself could decide firstly whether it wanted to annex and secondly whether it wanted to approve a raw fish tax."

The proposed annexation includes nearly 400 square miles of commercial fishing waters and 3 square miles of land in the Nushagak Bay and part of Wood River. If approved, the city plans to levy a 2.5 percent sales tax, which should bring in about $700,000 per year based on recent figures. The funds would boost the city's current operating budget by about 10 percent, said Forester.

The reason for the action is simple, Forester said. Those who participate in the fishery use city facilities, including the city's ice plant, bath house, and harbor facilities, all of which currently lose money. There is a serious erosion problem in the harbor that needs to be dealt with, and hundreds of seasonal harbor users who don't pay any city taxes toward the effort.

Not everyone is in favor of the move, however. Communities around Nushagak Bay, as well as the Bristol Bay Native Association, filed objections to the action with the commission, saying that the sales tax is charging them for services they don't use.

The city of Manokotak, for example, has 57 set net sites fished in 2010 and 30 to 40 drift net permit holders, according to a resolution passed by the Manokotak city council. Fishing tenders from three processors are stationed off Igushik Beach.

"These set netters from Manokotak depend on Manokotak for their support rather than Dillingham," the resolution states. "The boats from Manokotak are infrequent users of the harbor facilities of Dillingham."

The Local Boundary Commission, in its approval of the annexation, required the city to meet with communities around the district in an effort to iron out details.

The approval of the annexation action reverses a 1987 action by the commission that denied the action based on the decision that Nushagak Bay is an area of regional importance.

Find the whole story at http://www.thebristolbaytimes.com/article/1205nushagak_annexation_vote_set_for_april_10.

Cristy Fry has commercial fished out of Homer and King Cove since 1978. She can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.