With a deadline fast approaching on a federal plan to reduce the number of fish allocated to Alaska halibut charter businesses and hand them over to commercial fishermen, a handful of state legislators say they are going to take a look at the issue. To date, the state has ignored a so-called “catch share plan” developed by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, an organization dominated by commercial fishing interests.
There is growing anger to the north of us in Alaska, over halibut allocation policies by the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. If Kitimat is the centre of opposition by the recreational halibut sector in British Columbia, in Alaska, much of the opposition is in the town of Homer.
Business members of the Homer Chamber of Commerce voted Sunday night in favor of a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service that asks for another look at how halibut are allocated…
Members request NMFS Catch Share Plan allocation to closely approximate the Guideline Harvest Level for Area 3A, the central Gulf of Alaska including Cook Inlet and Homer…
The Catch Share Plan proposal to reduce halibut take on chartered sport fishing boats is viewed as a measure that could damage the charter sport fishing industry in Homer as well as the town’s economy as a whole. That’s a problem for the whole town to deal with, since every bait shop, kayak rental and pottery shop is tied to it, business owners told the chamber….
“We have before us an issue that can break us,” said Jack Montgomery, owner of Rainbow Tours for the past 30 years. “This could tear our town apart.”
My quota has suffered substantial cuts over the last three years as a result of commercial legal halibut biomass decline, and the explosive unregulated growth of the halibut charter industry….Currently, based on 2011’s TAC I am legally able to harvest a little over half of what I had originally purchased, but I realize the resource is changing and the initial shares I bought were not a fixed amount. Fish stocks rise and fall just as our stock market does for a number of reasons and influences…..
Fisheries politics should not and should never be discussed by unqualified, uneducated members of a biased Chamber at the city level. The issues that are at the forefront of this discussion are not city issues; they are federal and they are international and there are two perfectly capable, if not perfect, agencies that do deal directly with the issues at the forefront of this debate – the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service…. here is a reason for the Catch Sharing Plan that goes above and beyond what you and I know about the halibut stocks on an international level, not just what goes on in Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay at the end of a fishing pole.
The same high tech that lets your smart phone or tablet know the screen should be horizontal or vertical may help the commission, responsible for the conservation of halibut from the Bering Sea along the Alaska and BC coasts all the way to California, track the migration of the valuable and possibly threatened groundfish.
Commission scientists have tagged 30 halibut in areas 3A (roughly the Gulf of Alaska) and 2C (the Alaska panhandle north from the Canadian border) with a combination of external electronic “backpack tags” and electronic internal “gut tags”
The IPHC says the backpack tag is a black plastic cylinder that measures ~3″ (7.6 cm) long by ½” (1.2 cm) in diameter, It is attached to the dark side of the fish, below the dorsal fin, using a green-coated tagging wire, with a white backing plate that rests on the underside of the fish. Gut tags are surgically implanted in the gut cavity, but have a translucent green stalk that protrudes from the belly on the fish’s dark side. The stalk is made of Teflon, and contains sensors that record ambient light levels.
The commission says the purpose of the study is to examine whether geomagnetism can be used as a means of tracking halibut migrations.
The tags record the local magnetic field in ways that can be converted into location estimates, based on the strength of the magnetic field and magnetic declination angle in relation to the poles (which gets steeper closer to the poles) in combination with depth and light data. The “the pitch and roll detectors” in the phones and tablets that can also track the “the rolling bead in the maze game” do all the calculations needed to track the fish tag.
Since the halibut feeds on the relatively horizontal bottom of the ocean, the angle of the earth’s crust in relation to the poles should be able to track the migration without the use of GPS which cannot penetrate the ocean depths.
All data is recorded in the tag’s memory and can be retrieved if the fish is harvested. There is enough memory and battery capacity that the data can be recorded every 30 seconds for up to seven years. The IPHC is offering a $500 reward to fishers who may catch the halibut to return both tags.
If the pilot project is successful, the IPHC will tag another 2,000 halibut along the coast from Oregon to the US-Russia border in the Aleutians.
Now the issue has come to attention of Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, who is raising alarm bells in the Senate about the dangers of tanker traffic, the possibility of a spill and the probable inadequacy of the Canadian response to any major shipping accident along the coast.
Cantwell’s main concern is upgrading the ability of the United States Coast Guard to respond to such an accident, “This is a major threat to our region,” Cantwell said at hearing on July 20 of the Senate Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee. “It seems that Canada’s oil spill response plan in the Pacific Northwest is to call the Americans. …Obviously any such spill in the narrow and heavily populated waters of the Puget Sound or Strait of Juan de Fuca would cause tens of billions of dollars in damage and impact millions of my constituents. … I think it deserves a very robust oil spill response plan.”
Cantwell says she secured a commitment from Rear Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety, Security and Stewardship for the United States Coast Guard, to have the U.S. Coast Guard perform an extensive analysis of cross-border readiness and ability to respond to potential spills given the potentially dramatic increase in oil tanker traffic along the U.S.-Canada maritime border off Washington state.
After the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Cantwell pushed a bill through the U.S. Congress that, strengthens oil spill protections for Puget Sound and other U.S. coastal waters. The bill, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 15, 2010, includes provisions that significantly enhance oil spill response and prevention to protect valuable coastal communities and their economies.
Cantwell’s news release says
The legislation expands the oil spill response safety net from Puget Sound out to the entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, ensuring that Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca have spill response teams and equipment in place. The bill further reduces ship and tanker traffic in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary; enhances spill prevention efforts on vessels transporting oil; and establishes a stronger role for tribes.
Cantwell also fought to include a provision that requires tug escorts for double-hulled tankers in Prince William Sound. Approximately 600 oil tankers and 3,000 oil barges travel through Puget Sound’s fragile ecosystem annually, carrying about 15 billion gallons of oil to Washington’s five refineries. The Strait of Juan de Fuca also has significant outbound tanker traffic originating in Vancouver and carrying Canadian oil. Prior to the 2010 Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill, American industry only had to position oil spill response equipment in Puget Sound, leaving the busy shipping lane in the Strait of Juan de Fuca unprotected.
Cantwell’s provision extended the “high volume port area” designation west to Cape Flattery. As a result, oil spill response equipment, such as booms and barriers, are now prepositioned along the Strait, supplementing the response equipment already in place in Puget Sound.
An oil spill in waters in Washington state interior waterways could be devastating. According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, a major spill would have a significant impact on Washington state’s coastal economy, which employs 165,000 people and generates $10.8 billion. A spill would also severely hurt our export dependent economy because international shipping would likely be severely restricted. Washington state’s waters support a huge variety of animals and plants, including a number of endangered species, all which would be harmed by a spill.
Cantwell says she was successful in protecting a tanker ban in Puget Sound. Former Alaskan Repuiblican Senator Ted Stevens attempted to overturn the then 28-year-old protections authored by former Senator Warren Magnuson limiting oil tanker traffic in the Puget Sound. In 1977, Senator Warren Magnuson had the foresight to recognize the great risk that oil supertankers would have on the waters of Puget Sound. He put his findings into law and essentially banned supertankers in the Puget Sound by prohibiting the expansion of oil terminals in Puget Sound.
Enbridge, environmentalists agree
The inadequate Canadian Coast Guard resources in the Pacific region bring rare agreement between Enbridge which wants to build the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline and the project’s environmental opponents.
While Enbridge maintains that safety systems it plans would make a tanker accident a rare event, when officials were questioned at last September’s public meeting in Kitimat, they said Enbridge was worried about Coast Guard resources on the west coast. They said that Enbridge’s emergency planning scenarios call for it to take 72 hours for the Canadian Coast Guard to respond with its meagre equipment from Victoria and Vancouver to a tanker accident in Douglas Channel. The Enbridge team admitted under questioning from the audience that the company would urge to Canadian government to call on US Coast Guard resources from Alaska and as far away as California in the event of a major spill, confirming Sen. Cantwell’s statement to the subcommittee that Canada would “Call the Americans.”
Editor’s note: With this entry, Northwest Coast Energy News launches its planned expansion of coverage from energy and energy related environment issues to include other environmental and related issues in the northwest, including fishery issues.
For the past year, anglers, guides and outfitters on the British Columbia coast have been concerned about the allocation problems with the halibut fishery, with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans sticking to the original quota system of 88 per cent of the total allowable catch going to the commercial fishery and 12 per cent to the recreational fishery, which includes both recreational anglers and the tourist industry.
There have been parallel problems in the state of Alaska, where the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which governs the US fishery, began moves to take away the licences from many of the halibut charter operators on the lower end of the income scale. That move is currently being challenged in a federal court in Washington, DC.
On Thursday, NOAA proposed solutions to Alaska halibut dispute, in effect, handing the hot potato decision on halibut allocationover to the International Pacifc Halibut Commission, suggesting that the Commission decide the split for charter and commercial allocation when making the overall decision on total allowable catch. NOAA has also proposed allowing Alaska halibut charter operators to buy commercial quota, similar to the Canadian proposal from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans last winter.
The International Pacific Halibut Commission, through which the United
States and Canada jointly manage the halibut resource from California to
the Bering Sea, would determine total commercial and charter catch
limits for southeast Alaska and the central Gulf of Alaska each year
before the fishing season….
Allocations to the charter and commercial sectors would vary with changes in the number of halibut available for harvest as determined by the best available science.
The International Pacific Halibut Commission would
divide the annual combined catch limits into separate annual catch limits for the commercial and guided sport fisheries. The CSP (catch sharing plan) allocates a fixed percentage of the annual combined catch limit to the guided sport and commercial fisheries. The fixed percentage allocation to each sector varies with halibut abundance. The IPHC would multiply the CSP allocation percentages for each area by the annual combined catch limit to calculate the commercial and guided sport catch limits in net pounds. At moderate to low levels of halibut abundance, the CSP could provide the guided sport sector with a smaller poundage catch limit than it would have received under the GHL (guideline harvest levels) program. Conversely, at higher levels of abundance, the CSP could provide the guided sport sector with a larger poundage catch limit than it would have received under the GHL program.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council intended the CSP sector allocations to balance the needs of the guided sport and commercial sectors at all levels of halibut abundance.
Although the CSP allocation method is a significant change from the current allocation method under the GHL, National Marine Fisheries Service believes that the allocation under the CSP provides a more equitable management response
On the issue of buying commercial quota, the NOAA release says:
The catch sharing plan would authorize transfers of commercial halibut individual fishing quota to charter halibut permit holders for harvest by anglers in the charter halibut fishery.
Those transfers would offer charter vessel anglers in southeastern Alaska and the central Gulf of Alaska an opportunity to catch additional halibut, up to specified limits.
The news release goes on to say:
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended the rule to
establish a clear allocation between the commercial and charter sectors
that fish in these areas.
Currently, the commercial and charter halibut fisheries are managed
under different programs. The commercial halibut fishery has been
managed under a catch limit program since 1995. The charter halibut
sector has been managed under a different harvest guideline since 2003,
which gives charter fishermen a number of fish they can catch per guided
angler per day, but does not ensure the overall catch stays within a
definitive catch limit.
The proposed catch sharing plan, which is scheduled to be in place by
2012, is designed to foster a sustainable fishery by preventing
overharvesting of halibut and would introduce provisions that provide
flexibility for charter and commercial fishermen.
Those who wish to comment on the draft policy must respond before September 6.
It is time for TransCanada, Exxon and the state to lay their cards on the table; time to tell Alaskans whether their natural gas pipeline project is deader than Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
To almost nobody’s surprise, BP and Conoco Phillips yanked the plug on their Denali gas line project, an effort to build a $35 billion, large-diameter natural gas pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope to points south. Who could blame them? The companies said that after more than three years and $165 million they could not drum up enough binding “ship-or-pay” agreements to secure financing.
Denali — The Alaska Gas Pipeline project is dead, which is déjà vu for many in Alaska. Talk of the gas line has been going on since workers struck oil at Prudhoe Bay in 1968. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter went so far as to sign legislation designating the Alaska Highway as the route the line would take. That’s pretty much been the trajectory of the project ever since….
In 2008, former Gov. Sarah Palin awarded the company the license to build the line, along with $500 million in state money to help it along the way. It was her signature piece of legislation. TransCanada says that its project is still moving forward.
But to know to know where Alaska’s going with this, it’s important to know where it’s been.
Alaska Dispatch covers the plans, politics and problems of the Denali natural gas pipeline from 2003 until the cancellation of the project.
BP Plc and ConocoPhillips dropped plans for a $35 billion Alaska natural-gas pipeline, once proposed to be the largest private construction project in U.S. history, because they didn’t get enough customer interest.
The companies will withdraw an application seeking federal approval to build a pipeline to bring gas from Alaska’s North Slope to U.S. and Canadian markets, according to a statement today…
Halting Denali leaves one competing pipeline proposal, backed by TransCanada Corp. (TRP) and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), to bring 4.5 billion cubic feet of gas a day from Alaska’s North Slope…
The two pipeline projects are not the only ways to sell North Slope gas, said Steve Rinehart, a spokesman for BP Alaska. Other options include liquefying the gas for transport to other markets by tanker, he said.