Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 8:48 PM on Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Seldovia corporation offers halibut charter permits

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer

With a new limited entry program spelling the end of operations for hundreds of non-qualifying halibut charter operators, Seldovia has found a way to offer seven permits to captains who might otherwise be high and dry.

The City of Seldovia Community Holding Corporation, a nonprofit formed through the NOAA Fisheries Community Quota Program, is accepting applications through April 1, with the permits to be awarded by April 15.

"I think we have something pretty interesting for the benefit of halibut charter people and people of Seldovia," said Don Seelinger, president of the nonprofit.

The permits are made possible through an extension of a community quota program developed in 2004 as a result of halibut and sablefish IFQs, according to Rachel Baker, fisheries management specialist for NOAA Fisheries. The program originally allowed Southeast and Southcentral Alaska communities with a maximum population of 1,500, a history of halibut and sablefish fishing, located on the Gulf of Alaska and lacking a road system to form nonprofit entities and purchase halibut quota shares for use by residents of those communities.

In 2007, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council recommended limited access as a way of managing charter halibut fisheries in area 2C, Southeast Alaska, and area 3A, the central Gulf of Alaska including Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay. To qualify, charters had to have operated in 2004 or 2005, as well as 2008. The program went into effect Feb. 1 of this year, with more than 300 applicants falling short of the qualifications.

Extension of the Community Quota Program makes it possible for small, inaccessible communities with developing charter halibut industries to participate in the limited entry program for charter halibut fisheries, said Baker. Those qualifying in southeast can request as many as four permits; southcentral communities can request as many as seven.

"(The different amount) recognizes an opportunity to harvest more halibut in terms of total numbers in southcentral versus southeast," said Baker.

Eligible communities form nonprofit entities that submit applications to NOAA Fisheries. The state is allowed a 30-day comment period, after which the permits are issued. Seldovia, Halibut Cove, Nanwalek and Port Graham were among those communities qualifying, with seven permits each already issued to Nanwalek NR/Fisheries Board Inc. and Port Graham CQE Inc. The City of Seldovia Community Holding Corporation anticipates receiving its seven permits this week.

"Each community writes its own rules and regulations as to how the permits will be regulated," said Seelinger.

Seldovia's permitting process gives first consideration to individuals living in Seldovia or within 10 miles of city offices.

"If there are any permits left, it's pretty much open to anybody," said Seelinger. "It's community first and then everybody else."

Each permit is for one year. The cost per year is $500, with the fee used to enhance Seldovia's fishing industry.

"If you meet all the qualifications for the permit the first year, then you'll get it the next year and the next year and the next year," said Seelinger. "We're very hopeful that we'll have some folks from the other side of the bay who will come over and participate in our program."

Some NOAA restrictions apply. For instance, charters operating with City of Seldovia Community Holding Corporation-issued permits must begin and end in Seldovia.

To apply for a permit through the City of Seldovia Community Holding Corporation, call (907) 242-9707, fax 234-7430 or e-mail cassidi@cityofseldovia.com.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.