The North Pacific Management Council conducted an Allocation Policy Discussion that followed a new national policy for slicing the pie in our fisheries.
NMFS agreed with recreational fishermen at a national sportfishing policy summit that many allocations have been unchanged since the 1970s, and they may no longer fill the national standards laid out in the Magnuson Stevens Act. NOAA developed a new policy on how Regional Fishery Management Councils will review allocations in the future on a regular timeline.
NMFS recommended that Alaska's Halibut Catch Sharing Plan undergo an allocation review. This relatively recent allocation plan splits commercial longline quotas with the guided anglers who access the fishery through the recreational charter fishing industry.
The North Council has three years to complete a policy for what elements would trigger a review of allocations in specific fisheries. The purpose of these mandated reviews is to ensure that allocations meet the objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, with the goal of Optimal Yield for the highest benefit to the Nation.
Council members, including Seward charter captain Andy Mezirow, expressed concern about the timing of allocation reviews if they all come up at the same time.
In its decision at their June meeting in Juneau, Council identified a policy for an allocation review within a maximum 10-year time frame, following the staff recommendation. All LAPPS are subject to review. Halibut Catch Sharing Plan, GOA and BSAI Cod fisheries are also subject to this process. Public Interest will trigger other reviews as a secondary avenue to allocation review.
While setting a minimum time frame of a decade between allocation reviews offers guided recreational fisherman and charter operators no silver bullet for a long-contested re-allocation of Pacific Halibut, at least there is some movement to review them, and there is a secondary avenue for adjustments through the public process within a shorter time frame. When we pursue the Recreational Quota Entity for relief through compensated reallocation, and if we hit a logjam of opposition to that process we will have a strong argument to re-open those original allocations which we feel were set far too low for our sector, leading to all the restrictions we have been dealing with ever since.