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ANCHORAGE, ALASKA-Republican Representative from Anchorage, Craig Johnson, at a meeting of the State House Special Committee on Fisheries yesterday spoke out on the controversial Pacific Halibut Allocation Plan.
He pointed out at that meeting, that the allocation plan proposed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which cuts the bag limit of charter boat fisherman from two fish to one per day, would have a tremendous impact on the charter boats and the communities that depend on halibut fishing based tourism.
Johnson stated, “When you allocate that resource, you have to do it based upon good information — economic and biological — and I don’t think we have either to make the kind of decisions that this group is planning on making, that’s going to affect the lives of Alaskans, and possibly the fish.”
According to fishery officials, Southeast Alaska and the central Gulf of Alaska have seen significant declines in halibut populations for several years and the proposed catch-sharing plan is necessary to prevent further over-fishing of the resource.
Johnson went on to say that before any decision on allocation is made, federal officials should provide a economic comparison of the value of sport caught halibut and the halibut caught by commercial fishermen. He stated his concern was that is could take up to five years for the plan to be reversed and charter boat operators could not survive that long. He said, “They don’t have five years. Two seasons and they’re gone. We’re talking about potentially decimating an industry.”
Bill Thomas, Republican Representative from Haines, himself a commercial Halibut fisherman, spoke out as well on the plan. He pointed out that he has seen his individual allocation lowered and has not seen a rise in halibut prices to compensate for that. In defense of commercial fishermen, he stated, “I have constituents who can’t afford to go fishing anymore.” He went on to say that commercial fishermen have been willing to beach their boats in order to protect the halibut resource. But, in regards to halibut sports fisherman, he stated, “I’m not hearing that from the other side.”
In response to the comments, a representative of the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that the comment period on this controversial proposal will be extended for an additional 15 days. That extension put the comment deadline at September 21st.
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