U.S. Sen. Mark Begich released the following statement after NOAA Fisheries announced a delay in the implementation of a halibut catch sharing plan in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska:
"Announcement of a delay in the implementation of the halibut catch sharing plan will please some Alaskans and disappoint others but in the end there's a lot more work to be done on this longstanding, divisive issue and some tough decisions to be made in the interim.
"In my comments to NOAA Administrator Lubchenco, I said the public raised some legitimate issues which need further consideration. This includes the adequacy of economic analysis of the impact of the rulemaking, a general concern I have raised about other NOAA actions. I also share concerns about the fairness of the formula which would set the charter halibut quota below the sector's previously set Guideline Harvest Levels.
"On complex resource management issues such as this, I rely on the appropriate regulatory bodies like the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to weigh the scientific data, impacts on the various user groups and communities, comments of the public and other relevant information. I support ongoing work by the Council to examine management options during times of low halibut abundance, the efforts by charter operators to explore pooling options to allow more flexibility within their sector, and the needs for more biological research to better understand the current low abundance and diminished size of the halibut.
"Both the commercial and charter halibut sectors are important to Alaskans and the state's economy. Years of divisiveness between these sectors need to be resolved with a plan which fairly sets allocations, clarifies the rules, addresses each sector's unique needs, and allows flexibility for changing times. I hope the continued review of this important matter will lead to development of a plan which is fair to all users and works to grow Alaska's economy and ensure the sustainability of our halibut stocks."