Alaska/Pacific Coast

Pollock TAC in Bering Sea Up Slightly for 2017
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker – December 12, 2016
The North Pacific Fishery Mangement Council added 5,000 mt to the pollock total allowable catch (TAC) for 2017 and 2018 at its December meeting ending tomorrow.

With a total catch limit in the entire Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands of 2 million metric tons, the pollock TAC was far below an Allowable Biological Catch of 2.8 million in 2017 and nearly 3 million projected for 2018. Besides pollock, there are 21 other species or species complex harvested from the area.

Pacific cod catch limits are slightly lower than last year’s: 223,704 metric tons compared to 2016’s TAC of 238,680 mt and catch as of a month ago at 210,110 mt.

Other changes in the suite of catch specifications include an increase of 10,000 mt for yellowfin sole, from 144,000 mt to 154,000 mt.

Greenland turbot’s TAC rose from 2,874mt to 4,500mt for both 2017 and 2018.

Also going up significantly is Pacific Ocean perch, rising from 31,900 in the BSAI to 34,900 mt.

Arrowtooth flounder, Kamchatka flounder and “other flatfish” stayed the same at 14,000mt, 5,000mt, and 2,500mt respectively. But Northern rock sole, flathead sole, and Alaska plaice decreased by 10,000mt, 7,000mt, and 1,500 mt respectively.  The 2017 TAC for Northern rock sole is 47,1090mt, for flathead sole 14,500mt, and for Alaska plaice 13,000mt.

Atka mackerel TACs were increased from 55,000mt this year to 65,000mt for 2017 and 2018.

In the Gulf of Alaska, pollock TACs were reduced to 198,675mt in 2017 and further cut to 153,559mt in 2018. This year’s TAC was 247,952mt, with catches at 172,927 as of Nov. 5.

Pacific cod saw slight decreases in TAC as well. This year’s TAC of 71,925mt will drop to 64,442mt in 2017 and 57,825mt in 2018.

Sablefish TAC in the Gulf is slightly up to 10.074mt. Flatfish TACs remain on par with this year.

Researchers aim to protect the Bering Sea’s rare blue king crab while preserving fisheries
KTOO by Zoë Sobel – December 9, 2016
The last commercial harvest of Pribilof Island blue king crab was in 1999. Extremely low population numbers have kept that fishery closed.


The White House Just Made It Easier To Know The Fish You’re Eating Is Actually Fish
One in five seafood samples have been mislabeled, a study shows.
The Huffington Post by Nick Visser – December 9, 2016
The Obama administration took a massive step in the fight against seafood fraud and illegal fishing on Thursday, introducing a rule that will help Americans know the fish they’re eating is truly what they paid for.


U.S. Establishes Seafood Import Monitoring Program
Initiative will trace specific fish, fish products

Progressive Grocer – December 8, 2016
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries has released a final rule establishing the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to address illegal fishing and seafood fraud in the United States. The program will aim to further curb illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices and identify misrepresented seafood imports before they enter the U.S. market.

GSSI announces six new companies as partners
Seafood Source by Cliff White – December 8, 2016
The Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative, or GSSI, has announced six new commercial partners that have endorsed its efforts to evaluate the reliability of seafood certification programs.



Obama Creates ‘Resilience Area’ to Protect Bering Ecosystem
ABC News by Dan Joling, Associated Press – December 9, 2016
President Barack Obama responded to appeals from Alaska Native villages and gave them more of a say in the federal management of marine resources of the Bering Sea.

Labeling and Marketing

3MMI – Yellowfin Sole & Rock Sole Market Update
TradexFoods – December 12, 2016
3-Minute Market Insight:
Chinese processors forecast Yellowfin Sole prices to continue to climb in the New Year, so it’s possible that finished goods could strengthen by 10 cents per pound.


Protect Puget Sound and ban boats from dumping sewage
Seattle Times by Martha Kongsgaard – December 5, 2016
THERE are few views more iconic for us proud Northwesterners than a sunset over the waters of Puget Sound. Nothing more stunning than experiencing it from the helm of a boat, mid-fjord.

Why the charter halibut RQE is good for Alaska
Juneau Empire by Samantha Weinstein – December 5, 2016
Alaska history is full of fishing stories, from fireside salmon consumption 11,000 years ago to the largest commercial landings in 2016. How, where and what we catch is an ever-developing story embedded in our bones. The newest chapter is guided sportfishing, where we can share our love of fishing with people from around the world. Like Silicone Valley tech startups and civil rights fights, this chapter might threaten members of the existing story.

In Their Own Words Recreational Quota Entity: A Way For Charter Halibut Operators to Own Commercial
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Peggy Parker – December 7, 2016
To understand what an RQE is and why the North Pacific Council is taking final action on it this week, one must look back ten years to the efforts of charter boat skippers and longline halibut fishermen to resolve the age-old problem of sharing the resource.

The need was triggered by an unexpected rejection of an original plan to put charter operators under an individual fishing quota (IFQ) program. When the Council started over, a Halibut Charter Subcommittee was appointed to come up with new ideas. By then the charter industry in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska had grown to many times its size of five years earlier, and the halibut resource was beginning a ten-year downturn in abundance.

The charter industry was under a Guideline Harvest Limit (GHL) — a soft cap that started to be exceeded for the first time in memory by then, and was exceeded almost every year after in Southeast Alaska, sometimes by more than 100 percent.

Tensions increased with these overages because at that time charter and recreational harvests, along with bycatch and subsistence takes, were the first to be set-aside before managers allocated catch limits to the commercial fleet. So the more the charter sector took, even beyond their GHL, the less the commercial sector could harvest.

The subcommittee tasked to solve this problem was made up of commercial halibut longliners and charter vessel owner/operators — arch enemies who worked hard to come up with a solution that both sides would support.

Kathy Hansen was in the middle of many of these intense debates. Hansen is executive director of the Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Alliance.

“The Catch Sharing Plan (CSP) kind of evolved from this process,” Hansen said, “as an interim program. There were several long term plans languishing in the minutes of the subcommittee meetings. Once the CSP was adopted, those long term plans were kind of left languishing.”

The CSP established catch sharing ratios between the two sectors in a formula that was considered permanent. It also included a leasing program called Guided Angler Fish (GAF) that allowed charter captains to lease quota from an IFQ holder.

But what was missing for the charter groups was a long term compensated reallocation of commercial quota, or a way for the charter sector to own, not just lease, more commercial quota.

This week, members of both sides will present their arguments in favor or against the creation of Recreational Quota Entities. We asked two of the most well-informed advocates to give us their take, in their own words.

Andy Mezirow is owner of Seward-based Crackerjack Charters and serves as an Alaskan representative on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Linda Behnken is executive director of the Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and serves as one of three U.S. Commissioners on the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

SFN: Why is an RQE being considered now, when the CSP is only 3 years old and includes a program for charter operators to lease commercial quota?

Mezirow: “First, I am responding as a stakeholder, my comments are not in any way the opinion of any members of the NPFMC.

“The concept of compensated reallocation has been developing on a parallel path for longer than the current catch share plan. Back in June of 2007 the charter sector was told that if they ever wanted more fish, they would have to pay for them.

“A few years ago, the charter sector was awarded a National Fisheries and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) grant to explore the concept of compensated reallocation. Over the next couple of years, with extensive stakeholder participation, the CATCH proposal was created.

“This served as the basis for the ‘long term’ solution that is the RQE. So it has been close to ten years in the works and it is lucky for the charter sector that it is coming up for final action within three years of the final action of the CSP.

Behnken: “ALFA worked for 20 years to end the reallocation of halibut from commercial to charter sectors, and thought we had, finally, ended that battle with adoption of the CSP. It established percentage based allocations for the guided sport and commercial sectors, tied both to the same index of abundance, and created a limited market-based mechanism for transfer between sectors.

“Now the Council is being asked to again reallocate quota from the commercial to the charter sector.

“We are extremely concerned that authorizing an RQE to purchase halibut QS will further exacerbate the already high entry level costs faced by commercial deckhands and other community-based fishermen, worsen local depletion around Alaska communities, and undermine important domestic markets.

“We appreciate the work dedicated to the CATCH/RQE plan by a small group of charter operators and the more reasoned preliminary preferred alternative adopted by the Council last April, but good work on a flawed idea does not necessarily make the flawed idea good. We believe it is time for this amendment to be dropped.

“Individuals who are qualified to purchase halibut QS will have to compete in the already tight QS market against a purchasing entity funded by an as yet undefined revenue stream. It is ludicrous to expect this distorted version of a market- based mechanism could achieve economic efficiency.”

Mezirow: “The Charter sector’s revenue stream is very different than the longline sector.

“The only way the charter fleet makes money is from selling our services to clients. The charter sector catches clients, not fish. When they want more clients, they spend more money and time  advertising and marketing. If a longliner wants to catch more halibut, they spend more money and time fishing.  So in the world of charter operators, any money used for capital expenditures, permits, anything, comes  directly the client’s wallet to the charter operators.

“So if the RQE buys IFQ shares, ultimately our clients will be bearing that cost. Direct tax, a stamp, raising rates, the money is still  originating from our clients.

SFN: Another contentious issue is how much quota could be reallocated from the commercial to charter sector.

Behnken: “ALFA supports a 10% cap for each area. During times of low stock abundance in both areas, a 10% cap in Area 2C would increase the charter allocation of the combined catch limit from 18.3% to 26.4% — a 44% increase. A 10% cap in Area 3A would increase the charter allocation of the combined catch limit from 18.9% to 27% — a 42% increase. We strongly support limits on reallocation of quota from the commercial to the charter sector, and that those limits be no more than we agreed to when the CSP was adopted — 10% in Area 2C and 15% in Area 3A.

Mezirow: Four years ago in Area 3A, prior to the CSP, the guided halibut sector had a GHL that ranged from 3.1 million pounds down to 2.74 million pounds. With the implementation of the CSP, the 3A charter allocation dropped from 2.74 million pounds to 1.78 million pounds, instantly. This near million pound reduction was necessary to index our fleet to the same abundance level as the directed longline fleet and some of it was because of a new data set being adopted. Since then abundance has dropped even further.

This resulted in huge cuts to charter sector and the charter fleet has steadily taken more and steeper restrictions to get us close to that new allocation.

Right now our range of alternatives in 3A is either a 30% reduction in fishing days or a 50% reduction in the bag limit.  This is not the end of it. It is very likely that if the charter fleet continues on the same trajectory we will see both a 30% reduction in fishing days for halibut and a 50% reduction in bag limit. When supply goes down, our prices do not go up, in fact they have to reduce prices because their product is not as good.

The charter fleet in 3A is two to three years away from this kind of crisis.

Now add the fact that more 400 charter halibut permits are being used less than 50 days a year right now, the latent capacity would allow for almost a full doubling of fishing effort from the charter fleet if fully utilized.

From the perspective of the 3A charter fleet, it is very easy to see a real need for this action.

You can look at 2C from pre–CSP until now and see the similar pattern.

Behnken: “Over 80% and 70% of Area 2C and 3A halibut QS holders, respectively, are Alaskan, and 67% are now second generation QS holders who have worked hard and invested heavily to gain access.

“Unlike most Alaska fisheries, the halibut fishery feeds a domestic market and halibut remains one of the premium fish enjoyed across America. Approximately 10 million consumers access the Area 2C and 3A halibut resource each year through the commercial fishery—a number that far eclipses the number of anglers accessing the halibut resource through the charter sector.”

Mezirow: “The RQE offers a willing seller/willing buyer provision, strict limitation on how much can be transferred annually and in total, repayment of forgone fees, an opportunity for fish to be reallocated AT NO COST to the directed fleet in times of higher abundance and annual reports back the Council that will document the RQE’s behavior.

“If the Council moves the RQE forward, there will be years of development within the charter sector and it will likely require a 70% vote for a self funding buy in. This is years away from happening. All the Council’s action does is create the regulatory framework for an RQE to buy quota. The rest of the burden falls on the charter fleet to figure out.

Behnken: “This proposal will destabilize and undermine subsistence, non-guided sport, and commercial sectors to provide a few more inches of halibut opportunity to guided sport clients.

“The very title (“recreational quota entity”) is a misnomer—this amendment fosters charter client opportunity at the expense of non-guided recreation opportunity.

“The Halibut Catch Sharing Plan, which took the Council over 20 years to develop, balanced the concerns of all sectors in arriving at an allocation and provided charter operators with a market-based opportunity to increase harvesting options for their clients. The subsidized reallocation established through the RQE will raise the cost of entry to commercial halibut fisheries, undermine the viability of the commercial processors, support sectors and communities, and reduce public access to Alaska’s halibut. “

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
Office Manager
1900 W Emerson Place Suite 205, Seattle, WA 98119
Phone: 206.281.1667
E-mail:; Website:
Our office days/hours are Monday-Friday
8:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.

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December 12, 2016