NOAA Fisheries has extended the public comment period for the proposed halibut catch sharing plan by 14 days, after receiving a number of requests for additional time for public input.
The Proposed Rule to Implement a Halibut Catch Sharing Plan for Guided Sport and Commercial Fisheries in Alaska published in the Federal Register on June 28, opening a 45-day public comment period which would have closed on August 12.
With the 14-day extension, comments are now due August 26.
Most requests submitted to NOAA sought a comment period extension of 45 days, noting the comment period falls at the height of fishing season in Alaska, and fishermen who might want to comment are out on the water and may be unable to submit comments by deadline.
Alaskan regional administrator Dr. James Balsiger said that the halibut catch sharing plan has been developed through the collaborative effort and hard work of many people over several years, and through a transparent and robust public input process.
Balsiger added that NOAA Fisheries expects to receive thousands of comments on the proposed rule, which will need to be analyzed and responded to if a final rule is to be published in late 2013 to allow for implementation for the 2014 charter halibut fishery.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended the catch sharing plan to establish a clear allocation between the commercial and charter sectors in southeast Alaska and the central Gulf of Alaska, provide stability for affected halibut fishery participants, and provide halibut fishery managers with greater precision in setting halibut catch limits and management measures that are responsive to annual changes in halibut exploitable biomass and fishing effort. In recommending the catch sharing plan, the council urged NOAA Fisheries to implement the catch sharing plan for the 2014 fishing season.