Homer Alaska - Seawatch

Story last updated at 1:23 PM on Tuesday, November 22, 2011

UFA honors retired Homer fisherman

United Fishermen of Alaska named retired Homer fisherman Bob Moss to the group's Alaska Seafood Industry Hall of Fame. (See related story, page 3.)

Moss was noted by the group for his efforts as a pioneer in Alaska fisheries for more than four decades. He served on the Board of Fisheries, he was heavily involved in the Alaska statehood movement and efforts to organize fishermen to represent themselves in the fisheries management process.

Moss addressed the UFA board, recounting his earliest fishing times and the importance of work outside the fishing seasons.

"I am very humbled to be honored by UFA, and I thank you fishing folks who attend all the meetings, at the Board of Fisheries, North Pacific Council, and in your communities. The work at meetings makes the biggest difference in a successful fishing industry. Fishing is also about what happens before and after the fishing season," said Moss.

Buck Lukaitis, president of the Homer-based North Pacific Fisheries Association, nominated Moss at UFA's fall board meeting in Homer this month.

UFA established the Alaska Seafood Hall of Fame in 2009 to honor the 50th anniversary of Alaska Statehood. Previously named members include Bob Alverson, U.S. Sen. Bob Bartlett, Bob Blake, the Brindle family, Chuck Bundrant, Al Burch, Phil Daniel, Oscar Dyson, Alaska State Sen. Dick Eliason, Gov. Ernest Gruening, Gov. Jay Hammond, Gordon Jensen, Knute Johnson, Armin F. Koernig, Jerry McCune, Alaska State Rep. Drew Scalzi, Alaska State Sen. Clem Tillion, Tommy Thompson and Bob Thorstenson Sr.

"These individuals each made lasting contributions that helped Alaska fishermen and women continue our sustainable fisheries into the future. We look forward to recognizing the many others that are helping ensure our sustainable fisheries for future generations," said Mark Vinsel, executive director of UFA.

The Prince William Sound Charter Boat Association is taking aim at halibut longliners in state waters within the Sound in a proposal that goes before the Alaska Board of Fisheries to ban longlining within 3 miles of shore from May 15 to Sept. 1.

Nearly all of Prince William Sound is considered state waters.

Members of the organization complain that longliners are responsible for localized depletion of near-shore halibut stocks and use charter boats as "spotters" to decide where to fish.

In an interview with Craig Medred at the online newspaper Alaska Dispatch, Shark Tooth Charters owner Dave Pope said that longline halibut fishermen track which charter boats do well on any given day, and then steam to the area where they fished to set their gear.

"It's frustrating," Pope said. "The commercial guys are a pain in the a--."

The issue statement for the proposal, which goes before the Board of Fisheries at its meeting in Valdez beginning Dec. 2, states: "The current commercial practices, which made fishing safer for commercial fishermen, is now transferring additional risk to individual and subsistence fishermen since near-shore depletion of the resource has forced anglers and subsistence fishermen to travel farther and farther to access fish resources."

Charlie Trowbridge, area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said that the proposal was rather vague and did not specifically target halibut fishermen, instead prohibiting "commercial bottom gear" within 3 miles of shore.

That would seriously disrupt the state-waters sablefish fishery that takes place between April 1 and Aug. 31 in the Sound. Trowbridge said that ADF&G opposes displacing that fishery without any biological justification. However, he noted, the board has the option of modifying the proposal to fit the proposers' intent.

As to the department's stand on booting halibut fishermen out of state waters, Trowbridge said that it was allocative, which means ADF&G is neutral.

Trowbridge also said he did not know whether the main governing bodies of the halibut fishery, which include the International Pacific Halibut Commission, National Marine Fisheries Service or the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, had any plans to comment on the proposal.

National Marine Fisheries Service has rejected a plan by organizers hoping to arrange a buyback of Southeast salmon seine permits that would have reduced the number of permits, currently at 379, by 67.

The organizing force is a nonprofit corporation set up in 2003 called Southeast Revitalization Association and is authorized under the Magnuson-Stevens Act to spend up to $25 million to reduce the fleet size in Southeast. The money is borrowed from the federal government and paid back through a tax of up to 3 percent on fish caught by the remaining permit holders over 40 years. It requires a vote of approval by two-thirds of permit holders to enact any given plan.

SRA is concerned that the high price of pinks might entice some inactive permit holders to jump back into the fishery, and had set up a reverse auction to buy back the 67 permits.

The bids that were accepted ranged in price from $125,950 to $250,000, for a total of $13.6 million.

In rejecting the plan, NMFS said SRA got ahead of itself. NMFS sent a letter stating it had published a final rule establishing the administrative process for the reduction program, including bid selection, plan submission and approval, the referendum, implementation and loan repayment fee collection on Oct. 6, well after the SRA submitted its plan on Aug. 19.

The letter, written by NMFS Chief of Financial Services Division Paul Marx, says that the final rule states that the bidders must have an opportunity to examine the final regulations and consult with legal counsel, as necessary, prior to submitting their bids.

"This could not have occurred since the final rule had not yet been published," Marx writes.

Marx also indicated that the plan may not have been explained as well as might be desired.

"Please note that, among other things, the contents of the plan should include rationale that demonstrates that the plan would permanently reduce the most capacity in the fishery at the least cost," he said.

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