sustain-alaskas-halibut

Homer Halibut Festival Focuses on Partnership

Date Posted: September 27, 2016       Categories: AMCC Blog       Tags: Calendar/Events, Fisheries Conservation, Halibut Bycatch, Homer, Sustain Alaska's Halibut, Working Waterfronts

By Hannah Heimbuch

Watching two adults hoist a massive pot of hot cod chowder onto the counter, I wondered if enough people would forgo the fall sunshine to make a dent in it. It steamed there on the counter, flanked by baskets brimming with soft slices of fresh bread, seeming to whisper the secret of festival planners through the ages: If you feed them, they will come.

And they did. It was the first event for the united Homer Halibut Festival and Wooden Boat Festival, and on the inaugural night we joined festivity forces and welcomed our community to the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center for a movie and speaker evening featuring the almighty halibut and the ships that pursue them. Whether drawn by the prospect of talking fish, or by the savory food magic of Two Sisters Bakery, one by one the room filled with more than 70 seafood lovers and boaters, scientists, and fishermen.

20160909_181911 International Pacific Halibut Commission took the floor to share some of the history and science behind the Commission’s work and its signature species. We ended the evening with a documentary on the North Pacific’s historic wooden halibut schooners, some still fishing after more than a century harvesting halibut. I carried an empty chowder pot back to the truck. Mission accomplished.

By the time the sun came up again, a new team had assembled for our second event, the Halibut Fest Fish Fry, held this year at the Wooden Boat Festival grounds on the Homer Spit. But before we could fry, we had to prep.

20160910_142144-1Time to engage Homer’s steadfast ecosystem of community helpers. Potato salad for 300 people? Easy. Portioning 100 pounds of halibut donated by local fishermen? No problem; Homer volunteers show up with their own fillet knives. Coal Point opened the doors to its kitchen, and our generous sponsors helped us purchase the necessary ingredients. We even discovered that halibut scientists are excellent at both ecological study and making vast amounts of coleslaw. Between our rotating prep cooks, dishwashers, food servers, fish fryers, and clean up crew—plus the generous fishermen of the North Pacific Fisheries Association and the processors that donated time and protein—the community truly showed up for the Halibut Festival.

With full bellies and a fall sunburn, we left the fish fry and headed for Alice’s. Before starting a raucous evening with the salty tunes of Rogues and Wenches, we auctioned off a suite of buoys decorated by artists from around Alaska; yet another host of generous supporters that contributed to the success of this year’s events.

fb_hhf-auctionHomer Halibut Festival is a celebration of this fish we love and the incredible marine ecosystem that supports them. Much as it takes a village to raise a child—or a festival for that matter—the same is certainly true for the fish we rely on and the communities we’ve built around them. Every halibut caught in the North Pacific, every business that depends upon halibut, and all the people fed by halibut, are the positive results of a complex ecosystem of species and dynamics working together.

Whether we’re talking about halibut bycatch, ocean acidification, ecosystem-based fisheries management, clean water, healthy fishing communities, or any number of other issues vital to sustaining our fisheries and fishing way of life, all roads lead back to one essential thing: a healthy ecosystem with many working parts that are valued and considered vital to the whole.

We woke Sunday to a strong southeasterly blow, but the last hours of the festival weren’t to be missed. The Kachemak Bay Running Club hosted the 2nd Annual Halibut Hustle 5K run, a loop around the harbor that had us running into a feisty head wind on the home stretch. This made a final visit to the Wooden Boat Festival grounds all the sweeter, gripping cups of coffee and standing around the fire rumbling in the large outdoor stove near the beach, the Rogues and Wenches leading us in some sea shanties to close the celebration, and bid farewell to summer. See you next year Homer, for a bigger, badder Halibut Festival.

Hannah Heimbuch is AMCC’s Homer-based Community Fisheries Organizer. She can be reached at hannah@akmarine.org. 



Homer Halibut Festival Returns Sept. 8-11

Date Posted: August 26, 2016       Categories: AMCC Blog       Tags: AMCC on the road, Calendar/Events, Fisheries Conservation, Homer, Sustain Alaska's Halibut

HHF logoFollowing last year’s successful inaugural event, the AMCC team is looking forward to co-hosting the 2016 Homer Halibut Festival from September 8 – 11 with the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society. We’ve coordinated schedules and teamed up for key events to create four days of marine festival fun! 

Full event details are available at www.homerhalibutfest.org

Here’s a sampling of events throughout the weekend:

Thursday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. — Join the Wooden Boat Festival folks at the Salty Dawg for an evening of shanties and stories.

Friday, September 9 at 6 p.m. — Alaska Marine Conservation Council and the Wooden Boat Society join forces for a reception, followed by an informative presentation on halibut ecology by the International Pacific Halibut Commission and a film about the historical wooden halibut schooners of the North Pacific.IMG_0537_zpsu9uz7ctt

Saturday, September 10 at 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. — Join AMCC for a community fish fry at the Wooden Boat Festival grounds. Halibut donated by local fishermen! This event is free.

Saturday September 10 at 7 p.m. — AMCC and Wooden Boat invite you to an evening soiree and fundraising event at Alice’s Champagne Palace. Enjoy our fabulous one-of-a-kind art buoy auction and the foot-stomping tunes of the Rogues and Wenches. $10 cover charge per person.

Sunday, September 11 at 10 a.m. — Cap off the weekend with another Halibut Hustle 5K Fun Run, hosted by the Kachemak Bay Running Club, which starts at Land’s End Resort. Then visit the Wooden Boat Festival grounds for more music from the Rogues and Wenches and a final day of festival fun. To register for the Halibut Hustle, please visit www.kachemakbayrunningclub.org



AMCC Seeking Science Consultant- Apply by July 31

AMCC seeks a science consultant with expertise in population dynamics modeling, fisheries stock assessment, and fisheries management strategy evaluation to analyze two management actions being developed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council). A successful applicant will have a:

  • PhD in fisheries science, with a specialization in fisheries population dynamics modeling, fisheries stock assessment, and fisheries management strategy evaluation;
  • A background in fisheries management and policy, with preference for experience with the Council and IPHC processes;
    Sufficient time and capacity to dedicate to project in the timeframe identified and ability to attend the Workgroup workshop on September 12 (in Seattle);
  • An appreciation for the social, biological, and economic dimensions of fisheries management.

All proposals shall be submitted as soon as possible but no later than July 31, 2016 (note deadline was extended from July 15th). Proposals should be submitted via email to Shannon Carroll (shannon@akmarine.org).

For full details on the position click here.



Policy Update: Council Hears Testimony on Halibut Bycatch Plan

By: Shannon Carroll, Fisheries Policy Director

Last June, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) promised to take further action on halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea. Over the course of the past several meetings, the Council has followed through on that promise, developing a draft strategic plan for halibut issues, strategies for improved communication with the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), and a framework for an abundance-based halibut bycatch policy.

During the April Council meeting in Anchorage, the Council voted to continue evaluating an abundance-based approach to halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea. This followed a presentation by the abundance-based bycatch workgroup—which consists of Council, National Marine Fisheries Service, and IPHC staff—as well as testimony by halibut stakeholders, including AMCC. The workgroup’s current focus is determining an index for halibut abundance that can, among other things, be used to effectively capture the impact of bycatch removals on Bering Sea halibut. The workgroup will continue analyzing various indicators used to measure halibut abundance and will be holding a public workshop sometime in August. Abundance-based halibut management will likely be on the agenda again in October.

AMCC appreciates the Council and workgroup’s continued effort find a long-term solution to halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea. A robust, scientifically-sound abundance index is a key step in this process. We look forward to continuing to providing input on this effort.

More on the full range of issues covered in the April meeting can be found in the Council’s newsletter.

The next NPFMC meeting will be held June 6-14 in Kodiak. At that time, the Council will be hearing community and stakeholder testimony on the the Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management program.

For more information on Council actions and upcoming meetings, visit npfmc.org.



Stay up to Date on Bering Sea Halibut Bycatch

By: Shannon Carroll, Fisheries Policy Director

Here is the latest news for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s work on halibut bycatch.

Halibut Management Framework

Since June 2015, The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) has been working to develop a Halibut Bycatch Framework (Framework). The goal of the Framework is to serve as a strategic planning device for future halibut management actions along with improving and increasing communications with the International Halibut Commission (IPHC).

The Framework is often described as a “living document,” with the intention to continue refining and adjusting the document to fit ongoing Council needs. After receiving input from stakeholders, including AMCC, during the October and December Council meetings, the five halibut management objectives:

  • Manage halibut bycatch in the groundfish fisheries and harvests in the commercial, guided and non-guided recreational, and subsistence fisheries consistent with the Council’s Magnuson-Stevens Act conservation objectives.
  • Manage halibut bycatch to balance the objectives of directed users and bycatch users in both the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and the Gulf of Alaska (GOA).
  • Pursue an abundance based approach to managing halibut bycatch and directed harvests in coordination with the IPHC.
  • Provide for the sustained participation of historic participants and fishery dependent communities.
  • Maintain monitoring and catch accounting programs for halibut users in the BSAI and GOA in order to provide the data necessary for management needs.

The Framework has also led to more formalized communication with the IPHC, including the formation of a Halibut Management Committee and likely development of a Joint Council/IPHC Committee that would meet on an annual basis. The Council will be reviewing the Framework again during the April Council meeting in Anchorage, so stay tuned for news regarding that review process.

Abundance-Based Halibut Bycatch Management in the Bering Sea
AMCC has been working with other halibut user groups to push for a halibut management structure that links both catch and bycatch limits to halibut abundance levels.  This is in contrast to the existing structure, where bycatch limits are fixed, regardless of halibut abundance.  An abundance-based management structure would help both the IPHC and Council better share the responsibility of halibut conservation. Currently, the IPHC manages only the directed fishery and cannot make reductions to bycatch limits during times of low abundance. Were the Council to adopt abundance-based management, it would have an additional tool to protect halibut stocks at periods of low abundance.

The Council has recognized the potential value of this approach and has formed an interagency workgroup comprised of staff from the Council, the IPHC, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. This workgroup has been tasked with developing alternative approaches to abundance-based management and will be providing advice to the Council during either the April or June Council meeting.

Stay tuned for more halibut bycatch updates following the April Council Meeting!



Council Wraps 2015 with More Bycatch, Ecosystem Discussions

By: Hannah Heimbuch, Community Fisheries Organizer

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) met for its final meeting of 2015 in Anchorage this month, setting groundfish harvest numbers for the coming year, while also diving into a wide range of other topics. Bycatch, along with abundance- and ecosystem-based management, continued as major themes for the Council.

       In other bycatch conversations, the Council reviewed a roadmap outlining the analytical process for the development of a Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management Program. After revising and adding to the range of alternatives under consideration in October, Council and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) staff produced a work plan which lays out proposed steps to develop a Draft Environmental Impact Study by the end of 2016. Throughout this ongoing bycatch management initiative, AMCC has advocated for measures built into the program that protect community access to fishing rights, and options for the continued reduction of bycatch. We appreciate and look forward to the analysis of the new alternative introduced by Commissioner Cotten which would only apportion Chinook salmon and halibut to voluntary inshore cooperatives based on their members vessels. This is  a new and innovative approach to provide for a cooperative style management without allocating the target species and thus the associated fishing rights.

Take Action Now: Reduce Halibut Bycatch in the Bering Sea >>

As the need for information and options around bycatch management continues to increase, the Council is also exploring the potential of abundance-based halibut bycatch limits. The Council voted to initiate a workgroup, collaborating with NMFS and the International Pacific Halibut Commission, to evaluate options for moving bycatch management away from fixed limits, and toward limits that fluctuate with abundance (much like harvest). AMCC supports a move toward a bycatch management system that is more responsive to both conservation needs and balance between sectors, particularly in times of low abundance. The Council also tasked the workgroup with evaluating bycatch of juvenile halibut in terms of their long-term potential spawning potential. This is another important consideration, recognizing the stock-wide impact of removing large numbers of juvenile halibut, as seen in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands groundfish fisheries.

Finally, the Council has also advanced the topic of ecosystem-based management after hearing staff reports and a discussion paper on a Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP). Going forward, Council staff is tasked with developing the core FEP, and taking steps toward forming a Bering Sea FEP team and plan for public outreach. The Council has long been a leader in implementing ecosystem-based fishery management measures into its fishery management policies and the FEP is an important step in furthering that tradition.

For more information on Council actions and upcoming meetings, visit npfmc.org.



Fall Council Meeting Addresses Gulf Groundfish Management

After a busy summer season, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (the Council) was back together again for its October meeting in Anchorage, with strong focus on observer plans and electronic monitoring, as well as groundfish and halibut bycatch management.

The Council sent the annual deployment plan for groundfish observers in the partial coverage fleet forward, with specifications that would change how observers are dispersed among the groundfish fleet, if approved during final action in December. The change would assign observers based on gear type, with 14% coverage rates recommended for the pot and longline fleet and 29% for the trawl fleet. This is a positive change, as deciding observer time based on gear type will allow for more of the total catch to be observed, and give the industry more data to work with when making major harvest decisions.

Electronic monitoring (EM) is set to enter its first round of field trials, following Council approval of an EM pre-implementation plan for 2016. The Council has been discussing EM as a tool for monitoring fishing vessel activities, such as catch and bycatch, to expand the tools already available in the observer program — particularly for vessels that have difficulty accommodating observers. These initial trials will be run out of the ports of Homer and Sitka, on select pot and longline vessels that have volunteered for the program. We look forward to the results of these trials and the important data-gathering tools that EM could offer our fisheries as the program develops.

The Council unanimously approved an initial review motion modifying Bering Sea Aleutian Islands (BSAI) trawl observer coverage to allow vessels to opt into the 100% coverage pool. Previously, some vessels opted to carry 100% coverage so that a switch from a partial observer fishery to a full coverage fishery did not require them to stop to pick up another observer and to maintain confidence in bycatch rates at the vessel-level within the coops. However, this choice has frequently resulted in those vessels paying double fees. AMCC supports the motion, as it removes the duplicate fee, and will hopefully result in more boats opting into the 100% coverage category.

The council has taken another step in the ongoing exploration of Gulf of Alaska Trawl Bycatch Management options, voting forward a set of alternatives for staff analysis following a full day of reports, testimony, and discussion. The alternatives explore a variety of ways to manage bycatch among Gulf trawl fisheries and individual vessels. Commissioner Cotten introduced a new alternative which would apportion Chinook salmon and halibut bycatch to inshore fishing coops — on a voluntary basis — based on their members’ vessels. The alternatives maintain an option for Community Fishing Associations (CFAs), which have the potential to anchor quota to Gulf communities and to mitigate some of the adverse impacts of catch share programs. The Council also included options for further reduction of halibut and salmon bycatch. AMCC is pleased that the Council is moving forward with analysis of a broad suite of options, and that a CFA option is among those being considered. We look forward to a robust discussion following the next step of analysis, and the opportunity to weigh all of the material and find what is the best way to manage bycatch for sustainable and diverse fisheries and fishing communities in the Gulf.

On the halibut bycatch front, the Council passed a motion indicating its intent to consider reducing the total allowable catch (TAC) for targeted groundfish species that have high bycatch rates. Final action on groundfish TACs will be in December. The Council also unveiled its draft Halibut Management Framework, which is, among other things, intended to develop a framework for improving coordination between the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the Council. Although the Council responded to initial feedback during the October meeting, the framework will undergo further public and council review prior to the December meeting.

The Council will continue to analyze a Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon bycatch reapportionment and may take final action in December. The proposed alternatives would provide NMFS in-season managers the authority to move allowable bycatch between the Pollock and other groundfish sectors (non-pollock/non-rockfish). The proposed action will not increase the overall cap beyond the 32,500 current limit. However, combining the two caps creates a different scenario, and options to limit Chinook salmon reapportionment are important elements to consider in the action going forward. While AMCC supports actions that give the fleet tools for keeping bycatch below the cap while still executing target fisheries, we continue to prioritize maintenance or reduction of current bycatch levels.



Halibut Capital of the World Kicks off First Homer Halibut Fest

IMG_0537_zpsu9uz7cttby Homer Community Fisheries Organizer, Hannah Heimbuch

There’s no place like home. And in my case, that place is Homer, Alaska, location of the first ever Homer Halibut Festival. We set aside a lovely fall weekend in September to kick off this festival of the flat fish in the Halibut Capital of the World, and we couldn’t have asked for a better year-one shindig. We set out to celebrate the halibut resource, to share some great information and great food with the community, and Homer showed up in droves to make it happen.

We hosted some fantastic speakers from Seattle, Anchorage and Homer who filled us in on halibut ecology, examined economic dynamics from the international market to businesses in our own backyard, and IMG_1173_zps7ti7sw5bprovided insight into the policy process that manages the incredible economic and ecological engine that is the halibut fishery.

Did you know that halibut larvae spawned in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska drift on major Pacific currents back to the Bering Sea nursery where they mature into those adult fish we all love? Did you know that the sport halibut fishery has become one of the growing avenues for young people to enter into a fishing career? Or that Homer’s commercial halibut landings have often been higher than any other port in Alaska? Those are just a few of the many things I learned from the great presenters on September 19th.

The community meal was a testament to the power of local food — feeding at least 300 people with halibut donated by local fishermen and produce from many of our local farmers. At the Halibut Cabaret we had IMG_1182_zpsfqdnernomusicians and storytellers sharing the personal side of the fishing life, and a generous showing of community support through donations and auction bids on the fabulous buoys donated and decorated by Homer fisherfolk and artists. The Halibut Hustle, a 5K run that zipped us around the harbor trail on Sunday morning, had a great turnout of weekend runners.

The other piece of this that I want to celebrate are the dozens of volunteers that gave their time and resources to help plan the festival, paint buoys, prepare food, put up posters, staff events and more. Dozens of businesses donated funds, goods and services — without IMG_1222_zpsi3sj0u5qwhich the festival would not have been possible. The community of Homer and beyond truly showed up to make the Homer Halibut Festival a reality.

What did all of this show me? It showed me something that I already suspected — that fisheries are a vital piece of culture and economy here in Homer; and that our community, and many others along the coast, is tied in countless ways to the marine ecosystem. And finally this reminded me that the working waterfronts across Alaska and their coastal residents are vital pieces of the marine web. We are fishermen, neighbors and marine stewards, and together we represent the past, present and future of Alaska fisheries.

 

Thank you to all of our generous sponsors!

IMG_1203_zpsotwf7kaaInternational Pacific Halibut Commission
Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
Representative Paul Seaton
Trident Seafoods
Alaska Boats & Permits
ANL Corporation
Bulletproof Nets
Captain Mike’s Charters
Cook Inletkeeper
Homer Chamber of Commerce
Icicle Seafoods
North Pacific Fisheries Association
IMG_0538_zpshibatpz3Preventive Dental Services
Salmon Sisters
Salty Girls Gifts and Booking
Alice’s Champagne Palace
Auction Block
Coal Point Trading Co.
Paul and Jennifer Castellani
Bob Durr
F/V Captain Cook
F/V Challenger
F/V Dangerous Cape
F/V Nuka Point
F/V Sheik
Robert Heimbach
Todd Hoppe
DSCF4692_zpsnnizx8irIslands & Ocean Visitor Center
Lori Jenkins
Kachemak Bay Running Club
Sunrise Kilcher
La Baleine Cafe
Land’s End Resort
Chris Moss
Jessica Shepherd
Spit Sisters
Kyra Wagner

*For more information about how you can get involved in next year’s Homer Halibut Festival, you can contact Hannah at hannah@akmarine.org. And be sure to check out homerhalibutfest.org.



Take Action Now: Reduce Halibut Bycatch in the Bering Sea

Although the North Pacific Fishery Management Council failed to recommend meaningful halibut bycatch reductions in the Bering Sea groundfish fishery this past June, there is still time to tell the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to take action. Ask our Alaskan Congressional Delegation to urge NMFS and the Secretary of Commerce to protect the halibut resource and Alaskan coastal communities.

Please submit this letter and show your support for reducing halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea by October 28, 2015.



AMCC Hosts First Homer Halibut Festival

The Alaska Marine Conservation Council is excited to host the first ever Homer Halibut Festival on September 19th & 20th, 2015!

Homer is often called the Halibut Capital of the World, and this is a title we want to celebrate! We are kicking off the Homer Halibut Festival as an opportunity for the community to celebrate the iconic halibut resource of Homer and of Alaska. The weekend’s activities will provide ample opportunity to learn about halibut science and fisheries management, enjoy a community meal with friends, run the 5K Halibut Hustle and through music, storytelling and art, honor the fish and fishing traditions that have enriched the End of the Road. Through knowledge and celebration, we hope to increase awareness and stewardship of both halibut and marine ecosystems.

Learn more and view the full festival schedule at www.homerhalibutfest.org.

Thank you to all of our generous sponsors who made this event possible!

Skipper Level Sponsors $1000+
International Pacific Halibut Commission

Deckboss Level Sponsors $500-999
Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
Representative Paul Seaton
Trident Seafoods

Deckhand Level Sponsors $150-499
Alaska Boats & Permits
ANL Corporation
Bulletproof Nets
Captain Mike’s Charters
Cook Inletkeeper
Homer Chamber of Commerce
Icicle Seafoods
North Pacific Fisheries Association
Preventive Dental Services
Salmon Sisters
Salty Girls Gifts and Booking

 

In-Kind Donors & Partners
Alice’s Champagne Palace
Auction Block
Coal Point Trading Co.
Paul and Jennifer Castellani
Bob Durr
F/V Captain Cook
F/V Challenger
F/V Dangerous Cape
F/V Nuka Point
F/V Sheik
Robert Heimbach
Todd Hoppe
Islands & Ocean Visitor Center
Lori Jenkins
Kachemak Bay Running Club
Sunrise Kilcher
La Baleine Cafe
Land’s End Resort
Chris Moss
Jessica Shepherd
Spit Sisters
Kyra Wagner



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