Charter Log newsletter

Terry Johnson, Editor

March 2012

News

Charter Halibut Update

Unless you’ve had the time and resources to attend all the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and International Pacific Halibut Commission meetings, including pertinent committees, it is easy to lose track of where charter halibut management is going into this season. (Note: All council meetings are streamed on the web; access is via the council’s website.)

fishing boatsChanges in Area 2C management could help ensure that Southeast charter boats are working this year.

What has changed from last season, in simplest terms, includes a reduction in guideline harvest level (GHL) for area 3A, a GHL increase for 2C, and partial relief from the onerous 37 inch rule in 2C. The license limitation program that was imposed going into the 2011 season remains in place and the catch sharing plan (CSP) is on hold. But more changes are coming. Here is a brief scoreboard.

Catch Sharing Plan:In October NMFS sent word to the NPFMC that it would not proceed with writing implementation language until the Council clarified several issues pertaining to intent and methodologies. The Council at its December meeting affirmed NMFS’ understandings regarding to intent but that left 41 technical issues to be resolved. Council staff is now preparing a response. The Council may reaffirm its support for the CSP and its intention to implement it for the 2013 season, or could change some aspects of the plan which would require a new proposed rule and likely delay implementation at least an additional year.

The charter industry has been vocal in opposition to the CSP as currently outlined and a group is working to devise an alternative scheme which would allow compensated reallocation of some halibut quota from the commercial setline to the charter industry. The group working on the issue is scheduled to meet in Sitka March 12–13 to develop proposals to present to the Council in June.

Guideline Harvest Levels: The bad news that settled in with both segments of the halibut industry is the decreased halibut abundance in most statistical areas, resulting in lower overall quotas. The IPHC has applied new statistical methods for calculating abundance and concluded that there is simply less halibut biomass in the ocean than previously believed due to inexplicably slow growth. As result, IPHC reduced coastwide halibut catch limits almost 19% from last year.

For charter operators and their clients this isn’t quite as bad as it appears, however. It means the GHL for Area 2C is 931,000 pounds and 3.103 million pounds for Area 3A. The 2C figure is up from the 2011 GHL of 788,000 and more than double the estimated 2011 catch, while the 3A number is down from the 3.65 million set for last year but still above the actual landings of approximately 2.837 million pounds. If the industry in each area is able to hit its GHL it will mean a lot more fish on the deck for both fleets. Charter angler bag limits remain one fish under the reverse slot in 2C and two fish any size in 3A.

Obviously the very low catch in 2C last year was largely attributable to the one fish, 37 inch rule, but the shortfall in 3A appears to result simply from a decrease in clientele; according to ADFG, 3A charter angler numbers been decreasing from a high of about 147,000 in year 2007, to 117,000 in 2010. Projected 2C charter yield last year was 388,000 lbs, only 49 percent of the GHL, and the 3A harvest was 2.8 million lbs.

halibutThe reverse slot limit should make big halibut like this one at Pelican a more common sight in 2012.

Reverse Slot Limit:The 2C fishery escaped the 37 inch limit due to adoption by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council of a reverse slot limit which allows charter anglers to keep one fish that is either up to 45 inches in length, or 68 inches or more in length, head-on. The idea was developed by the Council’s Charter Management implementation Committee as a means of keeping the fishery viable for anglers who want to take home an eating fish and for those who like the potential of landing a lunker. Analysis showed that 37 inches or less was simply too restrictive and prevented the fleet from getting even close to its GHL, while also driving away anglers hoping for a trophy fish. The IPHC Conference Board had voted against the reverse slot limit on the grounds that it would result in greater charter discard mortality but the full commission went for it over their objections.

Halibut Limited Entry Upheld

A federal judge with the District Court of Washington, D.C., has denied a request for summary judgment that would have struck down the halibut charter license limitation program. A statewide group calling itself Charter Operators of Alaska filed suit last April in attempt to overturn the limited entry program.

Lawyers for the charter group alleged that the license law should be removed because it has no conservation purpose, violates the Halibut Act, and constitutes an arbitrary and capricious action by a federal agency. The judge denied the motion on all three allegations. In the ruling Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth cited the fact that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, as part of a multiyear process of developing a charter halibut management system, set a “control date” of Dec. 9, 2005, after which new entrants to the fishery could not be assured of permanent access to the fishery. Many of the COA supporters are the “new entrants” who started their businesses after that date.

COA has dozens of members around the state who contributed cash toward the estimated $50,000 in legal fees the suit was expected to generate.

Changes to TWIC Requirement

Captains and crewmembers on small charter boats may have one less thing to worry about with the announcement by the Coast Guard that it is dropping some requirements pertaining to TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential) cards. The agency has issued a Policy Letter that now allows mariners to work aboard vessels that don’t need a security plan without the card, including uninspected passenger vessels of less than 100 GRT and subchapter T vessels other than those on international voyages. It also includes some classes of towing vessels.

The TWIC came into being under the 2006 Safe Port Act, which also required the Transportation Safety Administration to develop a system that involved biometric card readers to control the access to secure port areas. Under the law, the Coast Guard required all mariners working under provisions of Merchant Mariner Credentials to possess a TWIC card as a condition for applying for or renewing an MMC. Obtaining a card involves submitting to fingerprinting and eye scan, an application form that is incorporated in a background check, and payment of a fee currently set at $132.50. Application can be made only at specifically designated contractor offices, not the Coast Guard’s own exam centers, and applicants are compelled to return to the TWIC office to pick up the card.

However, TSA has been unable to meet the five-year deadline for implementation of the card reader program and the first wave of applicants are approaching TWIC renewal time without their cards having ever been used. Congress is considering legislation that would require TSA to extend the renewal deadline to 2014 and to remove the requirement for returning to the TWIC office for the card, according to an article in the January issue of WorkBoat Magazine.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard has announced its own change of policy. The NACO (National Association of Charterboat Operators) newsletter reports that the Policy Letter allows mariners to renew and acquire an MMC (including OUPV and Master license) without possessing a valid TWIC card, which is technically correct. However, the Coast Guard still requires that new license applicants apply for, submit to biometric procedure, and pay the fees for a TWIC; they simply don’t have to return to the office and take possession of it. Currently the TWIC offices are the only place applicants can submit to the biometric and background check requirements of the Coast Guard’s license application process. Declining to return to pick up the card could result in future complications for those license applicants.

The February 2012 issue of WorkBoat reports that the Passenger Vessel Association has estimated that as many as 60,000 mariners will be exempt from having to carry TWIC under the new policy. The Policy Letter can be read in its entirety at www.uscg.mil/nmc/marpers/pag/twic_809_policy_letter.pdf.

Guide License Bill on Hold

The sportfish guide board bill reported on in the last issue of Charter Log, SB 24 by Sen. Lesil McGuire, apparently is dead, and the current guide license and logbook program is in jeopardy, according to a report out of Juneau. Bob Tkacz in his subscription newsletter Laws for the Sea reports that opposition from guides in the Interior and Prince William Sound killed SB 24. Sen. McGuire has now put her effort into SB 91, which would extend the current license and logbook program through this year, and favors a long-term extension of the program. The current program sunsetted on the first of this year. However, the House has no companion bill in the works and for the last three years has declined to pass one. Tkacz says that like much of the legislation pending this year, it is unlikely that SB 91 will get any attention in the Senate until that body finishes its work on changes to the oil tax structure.

Other sportfishing and industry-related legislation currently in the works, according to Laws of the Sea:

For details on these bills and for information on subscriptions to Laws of the Sea contact Bob Tkacz at fishlawsbob@gmail.com.

Deep Water Rockfish Return Required

Starting next year, charter fishing anglers in southeast Alaska who catch demersal shelf rockfish in excess of their daily bag limits or otherwise choose to release, must employ one of the devices or methodologies developed to ensure that the fish are released at a depth sufficient to ensure that the fish has a good chance of survival. The new requirement comes from the Board of Fisheries on the last day of February.

The Southeast Alaska Guides Organization and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association found rare agreement on the proposal, one of at least three submitted to the Board to address a problem of excess discard mortality by charter anglers of rockfish that normally are caught on or near the bottom. The measure targets yelloweye, but also applies to china, canary, copper, quillback, rosethorn, and tiger rockfish.

SEAGO director Heath Hilyard says that charter operators at the Board meeting unanimously supported the new regulation.

Under the constraints of the 37 inch rule last year, some southeast Alaska charter operators turned to rockfish to provide their clients some fishing action; the daily bag limit is five demersal shelf rockfish of any of the seven named species. In addition, halibut anglers often catch rockfish incidental to halibut fishing. In some cases they keep them up to their bag limits, but many anglers turn them loose. ADFG estimates that no more than 10% of the deepwater rockfish released at the surface survive.

Several devices for releasing rockfish at depth are on the market, including release lip clamps and inverted weighted hooks. Some people use an inverted and weighted milk crate. The last issue of Charter Log included a short description of release devices and included a photo of one developed by a retired Alaska charter guide.

The new requirement applies to guided anglers only. Testimony from ADFG and Department of Public Safety convinced the Board that it would be impractical to impose the requirement on unguided anglers, who take only about 20% of the demersal shelf rockfish recreational catch.

Travel and Tourism Initiative Announced

There is more good news out of Washington for tourism-related businesses. The travel and tourism industry has reacted with approval to President Obama’s announcement on January 19 of new initiatives to improve travel and tourism in the United States. Noting that travel and tourism support 7.5 million jobs and 2.7% of the GDP, the President announced measures directed particularly at boosting the numbers of foreign tourists to the country, predicting creation of an additional one million jobs over the next decade if fully enacted.

The initiative in part aims to make it easier for tourists to come to the U.S. from developing countries with growing middle class populations, such as China, Brazil, and India. It also includes a provision for visa waivers for citizens of Taiwan. The State Department has already bolstered its capabilities for processing non-immigrant visa applications, with 17% more visas issued to residents of China and Brazil last year than in the previous year.

The President also announced creation of a cabinet-level inter-agency task force to develop a National Travel and Tourism strategy to develop domestic and international travel opportunities throughout the U.S., with a focus on job creation.

In a separate announcement President Obama named Kirk Hoessle of Girdwood to the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. The administration created the board last August to advise the government on tourism industry–related issues. Hoessle is president of Alaska Wildland Adventures, which owns, among other things, an upper Kenai River fishing guide operation.

The President’s tourism initiative announcement is just one of the positive signs for improving fortunes in the tourism industry, both in Alaska and nationally. The recovering economy, decreased unemployment and increased employment, gains in the stock market, and strong consumer confidence expressed during the holiday shopping season all point to an economic environment conducive to increased tourist trade.

LightSquared Rejected

GPS users of all kinds breathed a sigh of relief in February when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced plans to revoke conditional approval for a private firm to develop a cellular telephone network on a radio band very close to that of the GPS system posed potential for harmful interference.

The marine electronics industry and others had objected to a proposed development by LightSquared on the grounds that frequencies the company planned to use were so close to those broadcast by GPS satellites that there existed potential to interfere with GPS reception. In January the National Space-Based Position, Navigation and Timing Executive Committee had recommended that the approval be denied based on research it had conducted, but the company had appealed, claiming conflict of interest in the advisory board. The FCC decision, however, upheld the committee’s findings.

The Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) mounted a campaign to slow the approval process and generated more than 18,000 public comments from boaters around the country.

LightSquared originally had asked permission to build 40,000 cell phone ground stations across the country but the National Telecommunication and Information Administration said its tests indicate that the network would cause harmful interference.

However, the FCC opened a comment period ending March 15 to solicit feedback on the proposed revocation.

For more on the issue from BoatUS, go to www.BoatUS.com/Gov.

ACA Names New Board Members

The Alaska Charter Association recently announced the names of its new board members and board officers. ACA is a statewide charter industry association and publishes a frequent newsletter largely through the efforts of member Richard Yamada.

ACA’s 2012 board members are Gary Ault, owner of Inlet Charters in Homer; David Bayes, owner of DeepStrike Sportfishing of Homer; and Ken Newman of Kodiak retired from the Coast Guard and a board member of Kodiak Association of Charter Operators.

Board officers are Greg Sutter, of Homer, president; Richard Yamada of Juneau, vice president; Jeff Wedekind of Ketchikan, secretary; and Bryan Bondioli, of Homer, Treasurer. At large members are Theresa Weiser of Sitka and James Stegall of Kodiak.

If you know any of these individuals consider thanking them for the work they are doing on behalf of the industry, and if you’re in the charter industry and not already a member, consider joining ACA. To catch up on ACA activities, to join, or to get on their electronic newsletter distribution list, go to www.alaskacharter.org.

Kachemak Boundary Issue Resolved

ADFG announced this month that agreements have been made to readjust the baselines for Kachemak Bay, Port Dick, Uyak Bay, and several other Gulf of Alaska inlets. They are among nine Gulf of Alaska coast areas affected by revisions announced in 2006 to the Alaska baseline by which state and federal waters boundaries are determined. Most of the others are on the Gulf side of the Alaska Peninsula.

ADFG commissioner Cora Campbell announced that “significant progress” had been made toward addressing the state’s concerns regarding revisions to the baseline. The U.S. Baseline Committee determines location of “closing lines” across entrances to bay and rivers, and those lines are used to separate internal waters from the territorial sea. The state position is that changes made in 2006 affect submerged land ownership and management and enforcement of Alaska fisheries.

NOAA Fisheries has agreed to manage and enforce fisheries this year and until further notice based on decisions issued by the Baseline Committee last fall, and for areas where baseline changes have been made but not yet reviewed or finalized, to recognize the historical three mile limit state waters boundary line.

NOAA charts produced in October and November of last year reflect the new baselines and are available at www.charts.noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/AlaskaViewerTable.shtml. The pertinent charts are 16640, 16645, and 16647.

AMSEA Broadcasts PFD and Flare Recalls

Mariners should be aware of two safety equipment recalls that are publicized in the current issue of Marine Safety Update. Orion Safety Products is recalling XLT and 12-guage signals made with ABS plastic. The company considers ABS to be inferior to the red glass-filled polyethylene currently used. XLTs are hand-launched signals, and the 12-guage flares are fired from a pistol-style launcher. Flares should be returned to an address in Maryland for free replacement, but users in Alaska will receive a cash reimbursement instead.

Mustang is recalling all model MD2010 and MD2012 inflatable PFDs sold in the U.S. during 2011. The company has found an installation inconsistency that may prevent some units from fully inflating. Inspection and repair can be done only at a Mustang facility. Owners are advised to call 1-800-526-0532 for shipping instructions.

Full details on these recalls are in separate articles of the current issue of Marine Safety Update, published by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association. The issue can be viewed at www.amsea.org/pdf/v28n1.pdf. While you’re at it, take a look at www.amsea.org and consider joining this very productive organization that has saved countless lives through information, training, and education.

Boat Industry Hiring

Another indication of improved economic conditions in the maritime industries comes in an article in BoatingIndustry.com about increased hiring in boatbuilding. While not directly related to travel and tourism, the uptick in boatbuilding employment is another indicator of an improved economy and more people pulling in wages that they can spend, in part, on recreation and tourism.

Neal Harrell, of recruiting firm Brooks Marine Group, told the online trade journal that there is a demand for workers in the trades, including mechanics, painters, marine carpenters, and marine electricians, as well as engineers and naval architects. Harrell adds that employers are hiring cautiously, vetting candidates more thoroughly than in the past, and are holding out for quality candidates rather than rushing to fill spots with warm bodies.

Harrell says the increase in hiring results from a stabilized market for boats, as well as pent-up demand for boats on the part of people who had been holding back while waiting for more economic optimism. Also, lenders are loosening up with credit, a phenomenon that’s also been reported in the housing industry.

Preventing Whale Strikes

NOAA records an average of three collisions between vessels and whales in Alaska waters each year, a total of 108 since recording began in 1978. In 36 cases there was human injury or property damage, 15 people were thrown into the water, 18 were injured, 20 vessels were damaged, and three sank. In 15 cases humpback whales struck vessels that were anchored or drifting.

These are some of the facts in an article in the current issue of Marine Safety Update, www.amsea.org/pdf/v28n1.pdf, published by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association. Authors are Christine Gabriele and Janet Neilson of Glacier Bay National Park, Aleria Jensen and Kaili Jackson of NOAA, and Jan Straley at the University of Alaska Southeast.

The article recommends three ways to avoid whale collisions: avoid fast travel in areas where whale activity is known, never assume that the whales know your position, and read the recently published International Whaling Commission collision avoidance leaflet. The IWC pamphlet, which is directed as ship operations, can be downloaded at www.aeco.no/documents/Englishwhalestrikefolder_000.pdf.

The article also requests that any mariner who experiences a whale collision report it to NOAA and include information such as vessel ID and description, size, speed, damage or injuries, and observations or photos of the whale after the incident. Verbal reports can be made to the Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 1-877-925-7773.

Felt Soles are Out

Guides and anglers are reminded that as of the first of this year felt-sole wading shoes and boots are prohibited while sportfishing in the fresh waters of Alaska. The ban pertains both to real felt and to other fibrous materials used to improve the grip on slimy rocks. The ban was adopted by the Board of Fisheries in 2010 with the intention of reducing the potential for spreading harmful invasive organisms that have the potential to spread into Alaska waters, possibly taking over streambeds or causing sickness in fish.

ADFG cautions anglers and boaters that harmful invasives also can be spread in other boating and fishing equipment. A recent ADFG press release urges anglers to:

The press release also requests that anyone who encounters an invasive species report it by calling 1-877-INVASIV.

For more information contact ADFG regional information officer Ken Marsh at 907-267-2219.

Charter Log Changing to Charter bLog

After experimenting with electronic publishing concept the last few issues, we’re going to streamline the publication a little more by going from an online newsletter format to a web log (“blog”). Believe me, I’m not tech savvy, don’t participate in social networking, and have been slow to come to this juncture. What convinced me to do so is that our electronic publishing wizards at Alaska Sea Grant assured me that it is simple enough for even me to learn it, is every bit as easy for you the reader to use as what you are getting now, and—most importantly—allows us to get you information much more quickly and frequently than we have up to now.

Please be assured, you will not be bombarded by Charter bLog announcements daily or even weekly. We’ll only send it out when there is something important enough that we think you will want to know about it, but when that occurs we can get it to you quicker. Another advantage to you is that each issue will be shorter than the previous issues of Charter Log have been. Readers tell me it sometimes takes two trips to the head to read a full issue.

Otherwise, nothing will change for you. An email comes, you open and read it and if you want to see what the blog says, just click the link. Otherwise, ignore it or save it for later. As always, feel free to unsubscribe if you don’t want the information. We promise never to sell, rent, lease, loan, or otherwise make your contact information available to anyone for any reason.

One last thing—if you don’t like the new format, or if you have ideas for making it better, just send me a note.

—Terry Johnson, Editor

Another Charter Industry Blog

Speaking of blogs, here is another you might want to take a look at. It’s at www.facebook.com/pages/Save-the-Halibut-Charters/146123815471875. I guess that means it’s on Facebook, whatever that is. It’s posted by Alicia Busick who lives in Anchorage and is part of the family-owned business LeSea Charters that operates out of Seward. She tracks developments in the halibut charter industry, particularly relating to fisheries management decision-making. She packs an eclectic bundle of information into the site. Aside from the Facebook page, you can reach her directly at Alaskawomen@AOL.com.

Homer Deemphasizes Halibut Size

The Homer Chamber of Commerce is taking a new approach to the award structure of the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby this year. According to an article in the Alaska Dispatch, the prize for the biggest fish of the season is being reduced to $10,000 (previous top prizes have exceeded $50,000 although last year’s was less than $30,000) and much of the other prize money will go to winners of drawings open only to fishermen who have caught and released halibut of 50 pounds or more.

Derby officials say the change is based on an effort to make the derby more conservation-minded, and that many people who see a parade of large dead halibut brought in to be weighed are disturbed by the sight and believe that too much of the reproductive potential of the stock is being removed since halibut over 60 pounds or so are nearly all females. Biologists say that the additional reproductive capacity to be gained by releasing large females is minimal, in part because very large, older females are less productive than younger fish, and because the removal of large fish by anglers is small by comparison to commercial longliners and trawl bycatch. Still, the Homer Chamber hopes that the move will convey an attitude of resource stewardship.

In place of the big grand prize the derby will give out $1,000 in each of four monthly drawings open to the participants who release large fish. In addition, two fish have been released into the Kachemak Bay area with identifying tags; if caught by a derby participant one is worth $50,000 and the other a new Ford F-150 pickup.

Conservation

Cook Inlet Belugas Continue Decline

The long, slow decline of the Cook Inlet beluga population continues, though at a 20% drop in one year it may not be correct to call it slow.

NOAA announced results of its 2011 abundance estimate in January and the number isn’t good. From aerial counts performed last year scientists extrapolated a total population of just 284 animals, down from the previous year’s number of 340 and from 386 in 2001. Only in 2005 was the figure also set below 300.

Exact numbers aren’t as important as trends, since counts vary year to year due to weather and changes in behavior and distribution. But over the long term the population has decreased by an average of 1.1% per year. NOAA doesn’t think the apparent 20% decrease last year actually means there are that many fewer belugas in the inlet. For that many to have died there would have been more carcasses found and only three were spotted last year, according to Dr. Doug DeMaster, director of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

The Cook Inlet population estimate is based on aerial surveys conducted each June. Scientists count and video record whales from a small plane and then analyze the results to estimate how many animals were present but not distinguishable to the counters.

For more information on the population estimate, see http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/newsreleases/2012/cibelugas010912.htm.

Sea Lion Entanglement

ADFG and the University of British Columbia have teamed up to produce a 10-minute video illustrating the problem of sea lion entanglement in marine debris. The video includes disturbing images of dead and injured sea lions, victims of fishhooks, web, packing bands, and other debris, but also offers practical advice on how to eliminate the problem. Most of the offending debris is lost or discarded by commercial fishermen, but sportfishing tackle also claims some victims.

See the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKmKBVla-hc.

Crime and Punishment

Fishing Guide Charged

A Cooper Landing–based fishing guide has been charged by Alaska Wildlife Troopers with defrauding prospective clients out of $90,000 through use of online booking systems to collect payment for guiding services he never provided.

Thomas Murray, who operates Wise Guide Outfitters out of Cooper Landing but lives in Utah, was charged after complaints that he failed to provide trips in 2010 and 2011. Investigators say he also failed to pay more than $27,000 owed to other local guides and lodges for their services, and collected Permanent Fund Dividends for three years while living out of state.

The Anchorage Daily News reported that Murray used PayPal to collect money from 69 individuals comprising 29 groups of anglers but did not provide the services promised. He advertised on eBay to fill gaps in his summer season, the newspaper reported. He was charged in a Kenai court with one count of fraud and four counts of theft.

River Guide Indicted

The Anchorage Daily News reported in December that well-known river and backcountry guide Karen Jettmar was indicted on federal charges of conspiring to remove a mammoth tusk from federal lands on the North Slope. According to investigators at the Bureau of Land Management, she assisted a client in locating and removing the tusk that has an assumed market value of $4,000. The incident allegedly occurred in 2007.

Jettmar is owner of Equinox Wilderness Expeditions and author of The Alaska River Guide. She is a former National Park Service ranger and has 30 years of guiding experience.

The following year, according to investigators, she informed the client that she knew of the location of other prehistoric animal parts and encouraged him to return to collect them. The indictment also says that she removed another fossil in 2009. The client, a millionaire retiree from Pennsylvania, was fined $100,000 and sentenced to three years probation and 300 hours of community service. Jettmar is scheduled to go to trial in May.

Guides and outfitters need to remember that it is illegal to remove fossils or historical artifacts from both state and federal lands, except under terms of valid collection permits.

Whale-Watch Operator Busted by NOAA

Marine mammal scientists and whale watch operators are rallying in defense of a Monterey, California, operator who has been charged with two felonies and two misdemeanors by NOAA law enforcement agents.

According to a posting on Marmam, a marine mammal listserv (https://lists.uvic.ca/mailman/listinfo/marmam), whale researcher and whale watch business owner Nancy Black could face up to 25 years in prison, $700,000 in fines, and loss of her vessel if convicted. She is described as the lead scientists of the Monterey Bay Cetacean Project, author of more than 20 scientific papers and posters on orcas, and a person with more than 20 years experience in whale research. She also runs a small tourist operation that allows her to put in a lot of time on the water observing whales while not having to apply for grants to support her work. The charges result from a six-year investigation focusing on two different sets of events.

Felony charges relate to a single whale-watching trip in 2005 where humpback whales were observed and Black videotaped the animals. It is not clear from the posting what the agents’ concerns were about the trip but the charges stem from the videotape that she surrendered to investigators afterward. The charging documents assert that she altered the tapes before turning them over to the authorities, a charge she denies.

According to the posting, the misdemeanor charges stem from two incidents where she witnessed orcas fatally attacking gray whale calves. Enforcement officers allege that in each incident she attached a line to some pieces of floating blubber from the dead calf so that they would not drift too far from her boat so that she could get underwater video of orcas feeding should they return to consume more of their prey. In one case the killer whales did return and she was able to capture the first underwater video of orcas feeding. Federal agents charged her with feeding the whales, a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The Marmam posting, by independent whale researcher Jim Scarff, says that over a six-year period Black and other researchers were repeatedly interrupted and intimidated by federal agents seeking records, emails, and documents pertaining to the case.

Noted

Statewide Stocking Plan

ADFG has posted a series of four PDFs known collectively as Statewide Stocking Plan for Recreational Fisheries, 2012. The plan outlines the objectives and the numbers and locations of recreational fish stocking efforts by state hatcheries for the next five years. The state plans to release eight million fish at hundreds of locations around Alaska.

The stocking program is funded by the Federal Aid to Sport Fish Restoration, otherwise known as Dingell-Johnson/Wallop/Breaux funding. Although the formal comment period has passed, persons wishing to ask questions or discuss the plan can contact Diane Loopstra at the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery in Anchorage, at diane.loopstra@alaska.gov.

More information and links to the four plan PDFs are at www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fishingSportStockingHatcheries.stockingPlan.

Guide Training offered

The Alaska Division of Economic Development (DED) is offering a course in April designed to help Alaskans become better tour guides. The course provides useful insights to anyone who works with the public as visitors in the field, including fishing and ecotourism guides. The announcement reads as follows:

Greetings Guide Trainers. We are offering another Train the Trainer this year if you know anyone who is interested.

Knowledgeable local guides are the best way to introduce visitors to the community and add incredible value to visitors’ experiences. To increase the number of trained tour guides in our communities, the Alaska Division of Economic Development (DED) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration developed the Alaska Tour Guide Training Program (ATGT). This State of Alaska certified training program can help residents get hired as tour guides. It can also help guides build their own tour or start their own tour business, and generate economic activity in their community. ATGT is a 2.5 day course, developed in 2010. DED has scheduled a “Train-the-Trainer” workshop for guide trainers who would like to offer the state-certified ATGT curriculum to train guides within their community or organization.