Halibut fishing waypoint 54, Strait of Juan de Fuca, B.C. Canada, May 22 2017.

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Halibut Fishing Strait of Juan de Fuca, This is What We Caught Yesterday!

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A CHANGE IS NEEDED IN THE SPORT HALIBUT FISHERY MANAGEMENT PROTOCOLS

The Pacific Halibut Convention was developed to administer the commercial fisheries for halibut between the United States and Canada.  We believe the sport fleet halibut fishery can be managed separately from the commercial, Alaska subsistence, and tribal/First Nation fisheries.  The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) currently sets harvest poundage quotas for the various halibut fisheries in the waters off the US and Canadian coasts.  These quotas are then applied through appropriate US and Canadian federal agencies to the states and British Columbia.  We believe that it is time to re-structure the sport halibut fishery to be managed on numbers of fish landed, not estimated pounds landed.

Recreational halibut anglers are a critical component in the coastal economies of the US and British Columbia.  They spend tens of millions of dollars which support many businesses from motels and gas stations to restaurants, grocery stores, bait dealers, and tackle shops.  The continuing decline in halibut fishing opportunities is causing severe economic impacts to coastal communities particularly in Catch Share Plan Area 2A (Washington, Oregon, N. California).

Assigned fishing dates have created a derby mentality, forcing anglers to go fishing when they shouldn’t be on the water.  Lives and property have been lost, and first responders including the US Coast Guard are put at risk when called out for search and rescue activities.   Having an extended season would allow the sport angler to pick the days and sea/weather conditions for a safer fishery.

We believe the sport fishery can be better managed by limiting the number of fish that can be taken and possessed in the field and establishing an annual limit within a season structure.  With more timely surveys and requiring a halibut specific catch record process, the Federal and state agencies can get a better handle on total harvest and provide more accurate harvest data to the IPHC.

We feel that that the IPHC can best address our concerns within the scope of the Convention under Article III, Section 2 (a), (b), and (c) below.

  1. The Contracting Parties agree that for the purpose of developing the stocks of halibut of the Northern Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea to levels which will permit the maximum sustained yield from that fishery and for maintaining the stocks at those levels, the International Pacific Halibut Commission, with the approval of the President of the United States of America and of the Governor General in Council of Canada, may, after investigation has indicated such action to be necessary, in respect of the nationals and inhabitants and fishing vessels and boats of the United States of America and of Canada, and in respect of halibut:

(a) divide the Convention waters into areas;

(b) establish one or more open or closed seasons, as to each area;

(c) limit the size of the fish and the quantity of the catch to be taken from each area within any season during which fishing is allowed;

We would like to have the IPHC designate the Pacific Coast of both countries as one sport fishing area; establish one season – February 1 to December 31; and set an annual bag limit of six fish.  With the same season and annual limit applied to both US and Canadian sport halibut anglers the concern about the IPHC being involved in domestic regulation development shouldn’t be a problem.  We would recommend that the daily limit be one fish and the field possession limit be two fish.

The Olympic Peninsula Salmon and Halibut Coalition and affiliated individuals and groups request that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife support our proposal to the International Pacific Halibut Commission, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council for implementation in the 2018 sport halibut season.   The coastal communities would realize significant economic benefits from a longer season, and anglers could plan their vacations within the season structure and know that the sea and weather conditions could be safer.  We look forward to the upcoming meetings and are hopeful that 2018 will see the sport fleet halibut fishery greatly expanded.

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council which oversees ocean fisheries for Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California will be discussing new regulation proposals at their June, 2017 meeting in Spokane, Washington.  This proposal has already been submitted by the Coalition.

Any comments on this proposal should be sent to   pfmc.comments@noaa.gov  and it is suggested that your comments also be cc’d to the following agencies:

 

  • Pacific Fisheries Management Council – Halibut Manager  Ms. Kelly Ames  kelly.ames@noaa.gov

 

Public comments on the proposal received BY 5:00 pm (Pacific), Thursday, May 11, 2017, will be mailed to Council members and appropriate advisory bodies prior to the June meeting. This is known as the Advance Briefing Book Deadline.

Public comment materials received at the Council office after the May 11, 5:00 pm deadline, but BY 5:00 pm (Pacific), Wednesday, May 31, 2017 will be included in the supplemental materials distributed to the Council on the first day of the June meeting. This is known as the Supplemental Public Comment Deadline.

We thank you for your support.

For the Olympic Peninsula Salmon and Halibut Coalition, Port Angeles Salmon Club, Puget Sound Anglers, Coastal Conservation Association, City of Port Angeles, Port of Port Angeles, Clallam County Commissioners, Port of Port Townsend, halibut anglers, and coastal businesses with direct and indirect links to the sport fishing community.

Dave Croonquist

Sequim, WA

dcroonquist@gmail.com

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Washington’s Sport Halibut Fishing Dirty Secrets That Screw Sports Anglers

Yesterday and today 12 Treaty Tribes are long lining for halibut, just two days until Washington’s sport halibut season opener, on Thursday May 4. This happens every year, with commercial Treaty Tribes cleaning out “Their Share” as defined by the Boldt decision and Catch Share Plan.  Federal courts have ruled Tribes as “Co Managers” of the resource, but we sports anglers are not on equal ground. Here’s why.

Unlike our halibut season, which is set in advance, Tribes go through the Pacific Fisheries Management Council which in turn asks NOAA, another federal agency for a permit to go fishing for “their share” of halibut. Today’s 48 hour opening was approved last week.

Do you think it is by chance the Tribes plan their season days before our sport season?

Treaty Tribes also receive a “Ceremonial and Subsistence” year-round fishery of 29,600 pounds. This blog is not about Tribes vs. Sports anglers, it is about Washington fisheries managers math and how it affects sports anglers. The Treaty Tribes, by law are entitled to their share, just as we sports anglers are entitled to our share. Problem is, we don’t get our share because of inaccuracies in math and methods used by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife fisheries managers.

Our sport halibut fishing quota is set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Our seasons/quotas are set at the North of Falcon meetings, based on the math metrics used by WDFW fisheries managers. This year recreational sports anglers have approximately 243,667 pounds of halibut quota. The WDFW halibut fisheries managers, headed by Michele Culver, Regional Director, Washington Dept of Fish & Wildlife and Heather Reed, Coastal Marine Resources Policy Coordinator work with their employees who manage the math so to speak.

The WDFW uses several factors to determine how many days we get to fish for the sport fishing quota. When I asked about their metrics in calculating halibut quota at a halibut meeting last year WDFW reps told me they use several factors including number of halibut anglers, creel surveys which include “fish checkers” at boat ramps and marinas, catch record cards returned, trailer counts at launches and aerial surveys. When I claimed their math was grossly incompetent they noticeably got mad and said their metrics are “Peer Reviewed.”

Here’s how their metrics work.

Lets start with number of halibut anglers. According to WDFW there’s approximately 300,000 halibut anglers.

Why?

Because that’s how many catch record cards included in the saltwater fishing license. When anglers purchase their saltwater fishing license they are asked if they want a free catch record card for halibut. Nearly everyone says yes to this, it’s free after all. This is the reason many of us support a paid punch card, which reduces the number of halibut anglers on paper so to speak. Also note, less than 13,000 halibut catch record cards are returned each year. The state currently estimates if they institute a halibut catch record card, approximately 10,000 halibut catch record cards would be sold.

Uhmmm?

So somebody at the state has some idea of how many actual halibut anglers there are, but they can’t use that number simply because 300,000 anglers have a halibut punch card.

So how many actual halibut anglers are their in Washington State?

Certainly not 300,000. Change this number and our season changes for the better, giving us many more days of halibut fishing, without having to risk life and limb in rough weather. Longer seasons equal more opportunity and safety for recreational anglers. If one day is to windy, wait and go another day.

Aerial surveys. Let’s take a look at this brilliant method of counting halibut anglers to figure out our days on the water and how many halibut we catch. Let’s take Saturday, May 6th 2017 as an example. WDFW will have a plane in the air doing aerial angler surveys and will count sport fishing boats. On that day it is also opening day of shrimp season, day six of the lingcod season and opening weekend of boating season. Brilliant! (Aerial survey docs below)

Creel sampling/fish checkers

WDFW does their best, so they say, to physically see as many halibut brought in by anglers. But they can’t be everywhere, and project their catch rates of “average” catches as seen by fish checkers against those not seen in person. In other words, they take aerial survey data combined with fish checker data and multiply numbers of boats with an average number of anglers aboard with an average of halibut as seen in person by fish checkers. As a simple example, seven halibut seen at one boat launch can be multiplied into a formula for unseen boats, unseen anglers and unseen halibut. Those seven halibut might end up being 14, or 21 or 28 or who knows how many.  Check out the PDF document at the end of this blog to see how these numbers magically multiply.

Is this accurate?

No, but as they say, their numbers and halibut catch metrics are “Peer Reviewed.”

Also note, when a sport boat returns to the dock for any reason, including using the restroom, and leaves the dock again it becomes a new trip that adds to the total. Or a boat might return to the dock and go lingcod fishing, shrimping or just enjoying a day on the water. This would also could be counted as another halibut fishing trip.

How many boats get counted twice?

Here’s the data, from years past, according to WDFW. As you can see, their data is grossly wrong or we as anglers developed a magic halibut lure to make us catch vast numbers of halibut quickly, with shortened seasons. Of course WDFW managers will claim we have vast number of halibut anglers on the water that catch vast numbers of halibut. This is simply not true. We could prove this if the WDFW Commission or State Legislators create a catch record card with a $10 fee, refundable upon returning the card, just like the crab catch record card. This would prove the WDFW numbers to be grossly over stated.

Halibut catch record cards have averaged about 300,000 per year

Catch rate (fish/day) increasing as days on the water are cut

Year        Days        Fish (est. harvest)    Catch/Day

2016        8        5337            667

2015        11        5291            481

2014        12        6241            416

2010        30        3556            118

2008        64        3909            61

And another dirty secret that takes quota from sports halibut anglers is the sablefish by-catch give away. In 2016 sports halibut anglers lost 49,686 lbs to the sablefish fleet (total for all WA waters that would have been divided up between the four halibut management zones) had we received our full share of halibut.

Oregon and California saw an increase in their recreational fleet share. Also note, California has a quota of 34,580 pounds. They have four halibut openers that ran from May 1-June 15, July 1-15, August 1-15, and September 1-October 31, or until the quota is projected to have been taken, whichever is earlier. Wow, what a season for so little quota. I’m wondering what method California uses to figure out catch rates — it certainly is not a WDFW math.

In 2017 the Total Allowable Catch for California, Oregon and Washington went to 1.33 million pounds, of which Washington sports halibut anglers will lose 70,000 pounds of their allowable catch to the Washington ocean sablefish fleet as by-catch. This year we will get an additional 23,552 pounds but should get back the 70,000 pounds that WDFW donated away to the commercial sablefish fishery.

Ocean recreational halibut fishing days on the water is also severely restricted. They are averaging 3 to 4 days of fishing. Their data is not included in this summary.

Last Year’s Halibut Metrics

011617 2016 halibut catch est 2-1

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How to Deploy & Retrieve Anchor From Stern of Boat

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Legal Basis By U.S. Customs & Border Protection Regarding Requirement For Private Boaters/Anglers To “Report Arrival” Into U.S. After Boating/Fishing In Foreign Waters

Here’s the link with a case from 2005 about a charter operator who wanted to fish Canadian waters with his customers. This information was passed on to me by Bellingham Port Director with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Anthony Zumpano.

https://rulings.cbp. gov/detail.asp?ru=116568&ac=pr

Zumpano sent me the below paragraph today.

The final holding of the ruling states, “Pursuant to applicable laws and regulations vessels, such as the one under consideration, which travel to the waters of a foreign country, come to rest or engage in an activity in foreign waters, and return to the U.S. are required to obtain vessel clearance, report arrival, and make formal vessel entry”.  Private vessels would be exempt the requirement to obtain clearance and make formal vessel entry pursuant to 19 USC 1441, but even that exemption requires that pleasure vessels comply with the requirement to report arrival.

In short, sports anglers who leave U.S. waters MUST call U.S. Customs & Border Patrol and “Report Arrival” into U.S. waters. And to properly do that an I-68 or Nexus card is required for proper entry and reporting.

Fishing Canadian waters is really simple once you have the I-68 or Nexus. Upon entering Canadian waters make your call to Canadian authorities, get a clearance number and fish. Upon re-entering U.S. waters call U.S. authorities, get a clearance number and be done for the day.

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Reporting to U.S. Customs After Fishing Canadian Waters — You MUST HAVE a Nexus or I-68

Source: Reporting to U.S. Customs After Fishing Canadian Waters — You MUST HAVE a Nexus or I-68

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