More time for halibut comments sought

Both Alaska U.S. senators and the Homer Chamber of Commerce have asked for an extension to the 45-day period for comments on a revised version of the halibut catch sharing. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service on June 28 published the proposed plan in the Federal Register and seeks public comments by  Aug. 12.

That’s too short a time, said the chamber and the senators.

In letters sent this week to NOAA Acting Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, both senators urged NOAA to extend the comment period another 45 days. The chamber said the comment period should be extended another 60 days.

“Limiting the review period to July and early August, the peak fishing season for charter and commercial fishermen alike, is insufficient to meet the obligation to gather meaningful public comment,” Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said in a press release.

“The 45-day comment period on the CSP (catch sharing plan) in effect winds up when the halibut fishing season is still in gear, undercutting the decision-making process by leaving out a core group,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in a press release. “I believe it is important to allow affected parties sufficient time to review this 134-page document and prepare their comments.”

At a luncheon talk last Wednesday with the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, Murkowski elaborated on that request.

“We’re all working. This is the busy time of the year,” she said. “I don’t know about you, I don’t sleep this time of year, and it’s not because we’re all out sunbathing. We’re all working. I hope they take my request seriously.”

In a letter to NOAA, Homer Chamber of Commerce President Pat Melone asked for a 60-day extension.

“The people most affected by the proposed rule should have a true opportunity to express their comments,” she wrote. “The time of the publication of the rule coincides with the busiest time of the year for all concerned with this issue, commercial and charter captains as well as entire communities in the visitor and marine trades industries.”

At press time, NOAA had not extended the comment period deadline and the request for extension was still under consideration.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at
michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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