Dave Croonquist Addresses Pacific Fisheries Management Council Meeting In Vancouver WA

Below is my summary report from my attendance at the PFMC meeting that started March 7 and ends March 13 in Vancouver, WA.  Also attached is a FAQ on the issue.

The primary reason for my attendance was to carry forward the resolutions and requests from the City of Port Angeles, the Port of Port Angeles and the Port of Port Townsend, and the Clallam County Commissioners requesting that the WDFW push forward our request through the PFMC and the IPHC to re-structure at least the WA sport halibut fishery to give us the opportunity to fish a season and not on days dictated by WDFW.  Our proposal might be expanded to include OR and N. California.  The economic hit the coastal communities are taking with the cuts in the season length are substantial.  From the anglers perspective, we need to get away from the derby mentality and fishing specified dates without regard to sea or weather conditions.  We don’t want to lose property or lives nor endanger USCG personnel or other agencies that would have to respond to emergency SAR calls.

Our proposed season/catch limit is as follows:

Fixed annual bag/possession limit of 6 fish per year per person

Field possession limit of 1 fish per day and 2 in possession

Season – Second Saturday in March to the third Saturday in October which will track PFMC ocean bottomfish fishery dates.   (Subject to change)

We all owe the City of Port Angeles, the Ports of Port Angeles and Port Townsend, the Clallam County Commissioners, the Peninsula Daily News, and the elected legislative officials from the 19th and 24th legislative districts (the Coastal Coalition) our thanks for helping push the issue forward with the WDFW.  We expect more coastal communities will line up in support of our proposal.

Dave Croonquist

PFMC REPORT

I attended the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) meeting in Vancouver, WA March 8-10 to present our concerns and issues to people in attendance. I had the opportunity for extended conversations with International Pacific Halibut Commission and PFMC staff, some charter boat operators, and I made a brief comment in the Friday morning session of the Ground Fish Advisory Panel about the sablefish incidental take issue and other PFMC attendees.

I had the opportunity to make comments to the PFMC in the Section H 1 session of the meeting on Pacific Halibut following the IPHC meeting report to the PFMC.  The following is a synopsis of my comments.

2A RECREATIONAL HALIBUT FISHERY PROPOSAL

I am here on behalf of the approximately 15,000 members of the Puget Sound Anglers and Coastal Conservation Association, the Ports of Port Angeles and Port Townsed, the City of Port Angeles, and the Clallam County Commissioners, all of whom are concerned about the economic losses from steadily declining halibut fishing opportunities and the risk of the sport fleet property and lives when being forced to fish on specific days.  You have seen our letter to Ms. Kelly Ames, in your supplemental briefing book addressing our concerns about the diversion of halibut from the recreational share to the sablefish fleet.  We are asking that the proposal made by WDFW staff to the PFMC last June and again in November to re-examine the recreational share of Washington halibut be returned to the sport fleet.  

I have a brief statement for you concerning the sport halibut fishery:

The recreational anglers, including non-residents, are a critical component in the coastal economics of Washington, Oregon, and California.  They spend tens of millions of dollars that support many businesses from motels and gas stations to restaurants, grocery stores, bait dealers, and tackle shops.  The continuing decline in fishing opportunity, in this case halibut, is causing severe economic impacts to affected businesses.  It has also created a “derby” mentality that can and will force people to go out fishing when they shouldn’t be on the water thus putting property and lives at risk and creating risk for fellow anglers along with the US Coast Guard and other agencies that might called out for SAR activity.   As an aside, I would encourage your agencies or organizations to work through your congressional delegations to ask for full funding of the US Coast Guard budget.  We need them on the water.   We feel that it is time to take a strong look at re-structuring the halibut fishery to reflect the importance of the recreational fishery to the coastal economies in 2A.  We would like to make the following proposal for at least WA waters, but would think it might be applied to OR and CA waters, too.

Fixed annual bag/possession limit of 6 fish per year per person

Field possession limit of 1 fish per day and 2 in possession

Season – Second Saturday in March to the third Saturday in October which will track PFMC ocean bottomfish fishery dates.   (Subject to change)

The following letter (referenced above) was sent to Ms. Kelly Ames, NOAA halibut program with copies to Ms. Gretchen Hanshew, NOAA; Phil Anderson, Washington State PFMC representative; WDFW staff Ron Warren, Heather Reed, and Michele Culver, and IPHC staff Jamie Goen and Claude Dykstra on February 9.  It was included as item H.1.d in the supplemental Public Comment book for the PFMC.

Ms. Kelly Ames

We would like to request that the 2A Catch Share Plan for 2017 (link below) and future years be amended at the March 10 PFMC session on Pacific Halibut Management, agenda item H.2, by removing the wording “…(except as provided in section (e)(3) of this plan)…” in section (f) SPORT FISHERIES (1) (i), (ii), (iii), and (iv).  This would provide the Washington sport fishing halibut fleet with its full share of halibut as found in section (b) ALLOCATIONS which gives 35.6% of the non-Indian TAC to the Washington sport fishery.

The Washington sport fishery has been capped at 214,110 lbs. of halibut for a number of years.  As the Total Allowed Catch (TAC) goes up, the recreational fleet has been providing what would have been our share of harvest quota to the “incidental take” of halibut during the sablefish fishery.  Since 2003, we’ve given up an average of about 40,000 lbs per year to the sablefish fishery.  The quota we’ve been giving up over the years would help extend our seasons and provide much needed economic support to our coastal communities.  It would also provide for safer fisheries by allowing us on the water during better weather and sea conditions.

In 2015, we gave up 10,348 lbs, in 2016 it was 49,686 lbs, and for 2017 we’re being asked to give up 70,000 lbs which is the sablefish ceiling for “incidental take” before any overage rolls over to the recreational fishery.  Under the current 2A plan, the recreational fleet should get an additional 23,652 lbs for our 2017 catch share bringing our total to 237,762 lbs.  The return of the sablefish shares to the recreational fleet allocation as stated in (b) of the 2A CSP would provide us with an increase of 93,652 lbs which would bring our total to 307,762 lbs.  This would add time on the water to our 2017 fishery and, if the TAC stays up, more fishing time in future years.  We understand that the TAC can fluctuate.  We can live with the lean times, but would enjoy the good times that a higher share will provide us and have a positive impact on communities businesses.

With the 2017 TAC for 2A at 1.33 million pounds, the non-Indian commercial share is increasing 37,915 lbs over the 2016 allocation 265,402 lbs.  Using the 2A plan for the non-Indian commercial allocations, this would leave 20,314 lbs available for the “incidental take” by the sablefish fleet and allow for increases for the primary halibut fishery and the incidental take during the salmon troll fishery.

This request is in-line with supplemental WDFW report E.1.a submitted to the PFMC in November, 2016 concerning the incidental catch of halibut in the Sablefish fishery N. of Point Chehalis:

“Therefore, as discussions on potential allocation changes move forward, WDFW would be interested in considering whether revisions to the sablefish incidental allocation were warranted.  Further, given that the sablefish incidental allocation came from the Washington sport allocation, WDFW would expect that any changes to the sablefish incidental allocation would shift back to the Washington recreational fishery.”

Thank you for your consideration.

Dave Croonquist

Sequim, WA

Cc: City of Port Angeles, Port of Port Angeles, PSA, CCA, WDFW

2017 2A Catch Share Plan:

http://www.pcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Final_2017_PACIFIC_HALIBUT_CATCH_SHARING_PLAN_FOR_AREA_2A.pdf

Late last year, it was thought that we might be able to get some or all the sablefish share that is taken from the recreational share re-allocated for 2017.  The PFMC process had already assigned the sablefish share and the vote at the PFMC meeting on March 10 was a formality.  There is concern within the sablefish fleet that they could lose the extra quota in future years and they won’t be able to supply halibut to folks who can’t go catch their own fish.  If the Total Allowed Catch (TAC) for the 2A Catch Share Plan remains above approximately 1.30 million pounds there are extra pounds, as mentioned in the letter to Ms. Ames, in the directed non-tribal quota that can allow for incidental take during the sablefish fishery.

Trying to get a better sport halibut season structure is going to be a challenge.  Hopefully, WDFW will be an advocate for us and maybe we can get support from the recreational folks and communities in Idaho, Oregon, and California who could also benefit from a different season structure.

There are many steps in the process.  The PFMC, under its federal mandate, manages the off-shore fisheries for N. California, Oregon, and Washington.  The states have to operate within the sideboards set by the PFMC.  The IPHC manages the Pacific Halibut fishery under the convention signed by the United States and Canada and their harvest guidelines are put in place by the PFMC for Area 2A and the NPFMC for Alaskan waters.  Looking ahead, it is my understanding that the next step in the process to try to get a recreational halibut season will be taken at the June PFMC meeting in Spokane, WA where the 2018 guidelines will be opened for discussion.  Subsequent meetings will be held in Boise, ID, in September and Costa Mesa, CA in November, 2017.  The 2018 meetings will be in Rohnert Park,
CA in March and Portland, OR in April.  The IPHC annual meeting will be held in January, 2018.  The 2018 IPHC annual meeting will be in Portland, OR January 22/26.

Copies of all the reports and public comments presented to the PFMC can be found in the link below.  Go to Section H for the halibut information.  If you’re interested in the salmon process through the PFMC, there were lots of on-going discussions.  You can see the links to the salmon information in Section E.

http://www.pcouncil.org/resources/archives/briefing-books/march-2017-briefing-book/#Mar2017

A copy of the resolutions passed by the Clallam County commissioners follows.  Similar wording was used by the Port of Port Townsend, Port of Port Angeles, and the City of Port Angeles.  Also attached is a copy of a letter that was sent to Senators Van De Wege and Takko and Representatives Chapman, Tharinger, Blake, and Walsh.

If you have any questions or would like to see more the correspondence that has gone back and forth over the past couple of years, please feel free to get in touch with me.

Respectfully submitted

Dave Croonquist

Fact Sheet Below

PUGET SOUND HALIBUT INFORMATION

Declining days on the water in Puget Sound halibut area – 70 days in 2006, 64 days in 2008, 30 days in 2010, 15 days in 2012, 12 days in 2014, 11 days in 2015, 8 days in 2016, and 3 days for 2017.

Economic impacts on local communities and businesses

Over-crowding at the available launch sites

Days to fish are fixed with no considerations for weather events

Loss of life and property due to having to fish on established days

WDFW has estimated numbers of halibut anglers, but no solid numbers how many really fish for halibut

2009-2014 average of 8000+ in Puget Sound and 11,691 all areas

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

2A Catch Share Plan gives 35.6% of the non-tribal recreational share to WA for a total of 224,110 lb

2A CSP takes 10,000 lbs. off the rec share for incidental take by sablefish fleet leaving the rec fleet with 214,110 lbs. and sets aside up to an additional 60,000 lbs. (70,000 lbs. total) before the WA rec fleet will see any increase in harvest shares

In 2016, we lost 49,686 lbs. to the sablefish fleet (total for all WA waters that would have been divided up between the 4 halibut management zones) had we received our full share.  OR and CA saw an increase in their rec fleet share.

With the TAC going to 1.33 million lbs In 2017, we’ll lose 70,000 lbs to the sablefish fleet but will pick up the 23,552 lbs above the sablefish share giving us 237,662 lbs.  If we had our share of the sablefish quota back, we’d have 307,762 lbs.

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

2A RECREATIONAL HALIBUT FISHERY PROPOSAL

The recreational anglers, including non-residents, are a critical component in the coastal economics of Washington, Oregon, and California.  They spend tens of millions of dollars that support many businesses from motels and gas stations to restaurants, grocery stores, bait dealers, and tackle shops.  The continuing decline in fishing opportunity, in this case halibut, is causing severe economic impacts to affected businesses.  It has also created a “derby” mentality that can and will force people to go out fishing when they shouldn’t be on the water thus putting property and lives at risk and creating risk for fellow anglers along with the US Coast Guard and other agencies that might called out for SAR activity.   It is time to take a strong look at re-structuring the halibut fishery to reflect the importance of the recreational fishery to the coastal economies in 2A.  We would like to make the following proposal for at least WA waters, but would think it might be applied to OR and CA waters, too.

Fixed annual bag/possession limit of 6 fish per year per person

Field possession limit of 1 fish per day and 2 in possession

Season – Second Saturday in March to the third Saturday in October which will track PFMC ocean bottomfish fishery dates.   (Subject to change)

About John L. Beath

John Beath is a writer, photographer, videographer, blogger, tackle manufacturer & Captain at Whaler's Cove Lodge in Southeast Alaska. He is also owner of www.halibut.net and host at Lets Talk Outdoors @ www.youtube.com/jbeath
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