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Attitudes and preferences toward Pacific halibut management alternatives in the saltwater sport fishing charter sector in Alaska: Results from a survey of charter halibut permit holders


Management of marine recreational fishing for Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) off Alaska has changed considerably in recent years due to concerns over stock declines and allocation issues. Since 2007, increasingly restrictive limits have been placed on Pacific halibut fishing of charter boat anglers, and a limited entry program was established in 2011 to curb the growth of the charter sector. In 2014, the Alaska Halibut Catch Sharing Plan (CSP) was implemented. It formalized the process for both (a) determining allocation of halibut between the commercial and recreational charter sectors and (b) initiating changes to harvest restrictions on charter fishing. One provision in the CSP allows Alaska saltwater sport fishing charter businesses that hold charter halibut permits (CHP) to lease pounds of commercial individual fishing quota (IFQ), which get converted into guided angler fish (GAF). These GAF can be used by charter businesses to offer their clients harvesting opportunities that are less restrictive in terms of the number and size of fish they catch and keep on a charter fishing trip.

This report describes and summarizes the results from a survey of CHP holders (charter businesses) conducted during 2015 that collected information on CHP holders’ attitudes and preferences toward Pacific halibut management in Alaska and preferences and behavior related to the GAF lease market, including values they place on GAF/leased IFQ under different sets of user or transactional restrictions. The mail survey was administered during 2015 to all CHP holders (565 charter businesses) and involved multiple mailings and a telephone contact. The survey response rate was 48% (271 completed surveys).

The survey results suggest that CHP holders generally had a negative view of the CSP and the GAF leasing program, with the majority believing that the GAF leasing program negatively impacts their business. Only a small percentage of respondents had participated in the program during 2014. Among those who had not leased GAF, the costs to lease GAF and generally opposing the GAF leasing program were cited by the most CHP holders as the primary reason for not participating in the program. About 84% of respondents did not plan to lease GAF in 2015 either. The majority of respondents also felt that relaxing restrictions on how GAF could be used (lease terms and transferability) were not likely to be helpful to their business. Respondents were also asked about their knowledge of, and attitudes toward, the Catch Accountability Through Compensated Halibut (CATCH) Proposal, which aims to create a recreational quota entity that can buy and sell commercial halibut IFQ. About 32% were not at all familiar with the CATCH Proposal, and over three-quarters of respondents indicated that they were not supportive of funding the proposal through a fee based on the number of endorsements held by CHP holders or a charter halibut tax per fish based on charter logbook records. Instead, the favored funding mechanism in terms of support was a charter halibut stamp, which would be purchased directly by charter anglers (70% were at least a little supportive). Respondents were split on whose responsibility (angler clients, charter businesses, or both) it was to fund the CATCH proposal, but the majority indicated that they did not feel the cost should be borne solely by charter businesses (about 68%).

There were several differences between responses from CHP holders in International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) regulatory Areas 2C (Southeast Alaska) and 3A (Southcentral Alaska). Specifically, Area 3A respondents viewed the CSP, the GAF leasing program, and how the current CSP would affect their businesses more negatively than those in Area 2C. They also differed in terms of their support for the CATCH Proposal, with Area 3A respondents being less supportive on average than Area 2C respondents. Area 2C and 3A respondents also seemed to feel differently about how supportive they would be of alternative programs, such as a GAF ownership program (that would allow individual charter businesses to buy and sell commercial fishing quota as GAF) and GAF leasing programs that were more flexible than the current program. In general, Area 2C respondents were a little more supportive than Area 3A respondents of these alternative programs. However, Area 2C and 3A respondents were similar in their statements about whose responsibility they felt it was to pay for the CATCH Proposal (in terms of charter anglers, charter businesses, or both) and their beliefs about how effective it would be if implemented.

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