Fish Bytes: A chat with IPHC biologist Gregg Williams


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Welcome to the Fish Bytes blog on the new and improving Alaska Journal of Commerce website. As a fisheries reporter, the main advantage of working at a weekly publication is having the time to sit through days of regulatory meetings or spend hours reading through discussion papers and analyses that typically number in the hundreds of pages.

The big disadvantage — until now — was the inability to provide fresh daily content about a global industry in which Alaska plays a vital part.

A perfect example came yesterday morning on “press day.” We send our latest issue to the printer every Wednesday, which means copy is pretty much set by early morning if we’re not dealing with breaking news.

So with my latest story on the proposed halibut catch sharing plan already on the page when International Pacific Halibut Commission biologist Gregg Williams called around 8:30, I wasn’t able to update with his insights on the latest statements from charter operators opposed to the rule.

Before the launch of the new website, I would have had to wait more than a week to get a new story up. Now, I can share Williams’ thoughts with you today.

As I discuss in the story that will publish to the web Friday, Alaska Charter Association board member and longtime operator Richard Yamada argued to the Alaska House Special Committee on Fisheries at a Sept. 1 hearing that the IPHC has been allowing the commercial sector to overharvest halibut in Southeast.

In an argument that’s been gaining traction among the charter sector lobbying for changes in the rule, Yamada pointed to IPHC data that shows a harvest rate of greater than 50 percent for several recent years in Southeast.

The target harvest rate of the exploitable biomass for IPHC is 20 percent. The Southeast charter operators contend that while they are often blamed for going over their allocation (which they have for every year since 2004), it is actually the commercial sector that has been allowed to overharvest the stock while it is in a declining trend.

Williams said that comparing the target harvest rate to the actual harvest rate is “kind of an apples to oranges comparison” and that it was “a bit of a red herring” to point to high harvest rates as being evidence of IPHC allowing the commercial fleet to overharvest the stock.

Williams also talked about the change in 2011 to the “slow up, full down” approach versus the previous “slow up, fast down” policy, the talk of changing the legal commercial size to 30 inches (from 32) and what will happen at the interim IPHC meeting in November if the halibut CSP is not yet in place.

 

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