15 more days to critique halibut sharing plan

Here's a press release from the National Marine Fisheries Service:

Sept. 1, 2011

Public comment period extended on halibut catch sharing plan

JUNEAU — The National Marine Fisheries Service is extending the comment period for the proposed halibut catch sharing plan by 15 days, to Sept. 21.

NMFS published the proposed rule in the Federal Register on July 22 with a 45-day comment period, which expires Sept. 6.

The decision to extend the comment period comes following a visit to Alaska last month by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, who attended a luncheon in Homer with U.S. Senator Mark Begich to hear concerns and comments about the draft plan firsthand from both charter and commercial halibut fishermen.

"Alaska fisheries have been among the healthiest and most sustainable in the world, and we are working to keep them that way for both recreational opportunities and the long-term economic benefit of Alaska fishermen and fishing communities," Lubchenco said. "During my recent trip to Alaska, I was honored to visit communities where the local economy is tied to the halibut fishery. I listened to the community's concerns and I want to make sure that everyone has a chance to provide input in this public process of shaping the final halibut catch sharing plan."

"While we need a plan to keep all segments of the halibut fishery within catch limits to sustain and rebuild the stocks, charter fishermen raised several legitimate issues at the Homer meeting warranting further consideration," Begich said. "While many fishermen have already submitted comments, this extension will allow additional time for fishermen still out on the water to make sure they are heard. I am pleased Dr. Lubchenco is taking action and responding to the comments we heard when we spoke to the Homer Chamber of Commerce."

The halibut stock in Southeast Alaska and the Central Gulf of Alaska has seen a steep decline in the past several years. The proposed catch sharing plan is designed to foster a sustainable fishery by preventing overharvest of halibut and would introduce provisions that provide flexibility for charter and commercial fishermen. Currently, the commercial and charter halibut fisheries are managed under different programs.

The proposed catch sharing plan was shaped through an open and public process through the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which recommended the rule to establish a clear allocation between the commercial and charter sectors that fish in Southeast and the Central Gulf.

NOAA is extending the comment period to respond to numerous requests from the public. Comments must be received by Sept. 21.

For options on submitting comments, click here.