Federal Agency Says Halibut Catch Sharing Plan Needs More Input

A federal agency wants the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council to provide more input before implementing a controversial catch sharing plan for halibut in Southeast Alaska and the central Gulf.

An extended public comment period on the proposed plan ended September 21st and brought in thousands of comments to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The catch-sharing plan would adjust the allocation of halibut between the charter and commercial fishing fleets and impose catch restrictions on charter fishing boats in the two areas based on abundance of the flatfish.

Agency spokesperson Julie Speegle says NMFS announced the need for additional input at this week’s meeting of the North Pacific Council in Unalaska.

The agency published its proposed rule for the catch sharing plan back in July and planned on publishing a final rule this December, after a review of the comments, and in time for the plan to take effect in 2012. The International Pacific Halibut Commission, which sets the catch level coast-wide, meets in January.

Speegle says it’s unclear if additional review by the council will change the timeline. The agency is asking the council to address the issues at a special meeting, or at its next scheduled meeting in December.

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