Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:49 PM on Wednesday, September 28, 2011

4,185 comment on halibut Catch Sharing Plan



BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG
STAFF WRITER

With the comment period ended on Sept. 21 for the proposed halibut Catch Sharing Plan, 4,185 replies have been received by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries. The comments include electronic, fax and postal submissions, said Julie Speegle, a public affairs officer for NOAA Fisheries, Alaska.

NOAA Fisheries published the draft federal rule for the Catch Sharing Plan in July. If approved by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, it would give the guided sport halibut charter fleet a set percentage of the overall allowable catch determined by the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Depending on how many millions of pounds of halibut the fleet receives, charter fishermen in various regulatory areas could be allowed one fish a day, two fish with one of those fish less than 32-inches long or two fish of any size. The rule does not affect halibut caught by unguided sport fishermen or subsistence fishermen.

Under the new rule, charter fishermen could lease for the season IFQs from commercial fishermen that would allow them to fish for a second fish if a one-fish limit was imposed.

Many comments — called "campaign" comments by NOAA Fisheries — came from people identifying themselves with commercial fishing, guided sport and visitor industries, but 2,098 came from individuals. NOAA Fisheries received 232 campaign comments from the Kenai Peninsula Residents & Visitors Association, 46 campaign comments from Tanaku Lodge visitors, 1,079 campaign comments from the Alaska Charter Association and 520 campaign comments from the Halibut Coalition, a commercial fishing group. Another 215 comments hadn't been categorized yet.

NOAA Fisheries will review the comments and identify each unique comment on the proposed rule. It then prepares a response to unique comments and final rule and regulations. The final rule will include a description of any changes made to the proposed regulations based on public comments and NOAA Fisheries' review of the regulations. That rule then goes to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce for consideration. If the secretary approves the rule, it will be published in the Federal Register and be implement 30 days following publication.

Comments can be viewed online at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;rpp=10;po=0;D=NOAA-NMFS-2011-0180.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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