NOAA Extends Comment Period on Catch-Share Plan
Local halibut fishermen concerned about NOAA’s proposed halibut catch-sharing rule will have an extra two weeks to file public comments on the subject.
The halibut catch-sharing plan was created by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which recommends an allocation between the commercial and charter sectors, in an effort to stabilize the charter halibut harvest.
The plan would replace the current “guideline harvest level” – or GHL – with a percentage allocation of the commercial and charter catch limit. The combined catch limit would be determined by the International Pacific Halibut Commission each year prior to the fishing season.
Originally, NOAA had set a public comment period of 45 days, meaning the deadline would have been August 12th.
Speaking on KBBI and KDLL’s “Coffee table” program July 3rd, Senator Mark Begich said that just isn’t enough time.
"Asking people to comment on fisheries issues on the middle of summer just doesn't make sense," he said. "So we've asked for a 45-day extension ... to make sure that people on their boats, both charter and commercial, have a chance to comment on this."
Senator Lisa Murkowski also joined in that call and on Wednesday, NOAA officials announced that they will indeed be extending the comment period – but not by the 45-day period requested by Alaska’s Senate delegation.
In a news release, NOAA officials say they will add an extra 14 days, with the new deadline for public comment set at August 26th. They said that a longer, 45-day extension would “jeopardize implementation of the catch sharing plan for the 2014 fishing season.”
NOAA’s Alaskan regional administrator Dr. James Balsiger says the organization expects to receive thousands of comments on the proposed rule, and those comments will need to be analyzed and responded to if a final rule is to be published later this year.
Public comments on the halibut catch-sharing plan can be made online at the website www.regulations.gov. A copy of the proposed halibut catch sharing plan is available online at the website alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.