Call for two seats on IPHC
Credit: Parker     

August 19, 2015/// Today’s announcement in the Federal Registers re-opens for one month a nomination process for two Commissioner seats on the IPHC.

The original call for nominations garnered two names, the incumbents who have held those positions for about 18 months: Bob Alverson of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association and Don Lane of the North Pacific Fishing Association in Homer. IPHC Commissioner terms are for two years.

“While this recent solicitation of nominations resulted in two strong candidates,” NOAA Fisheries explains in their announcement, they want more names to propose to the President.

Both Alverson and Lane will not have to resubmit their qualification package; their names will stay on the list.

The agency said another reason for expanding the list is that alternate commissioners are being considered.

“Additionally, the lack of a larger candidate pool impacts the ability of recommending officials to proposed Alternate Commissioners,” the agency wrote in the announcement.

Alternate commissioners have rarely been used to replace sitting commissioners in the past. The current commissioners from the U.S. delegation have expressed no support for them.

One of the reasons there is little support is because there is no funding to cover costs associated with serving as commissioner: travel, per diem, or training time as they become familiar with the science, modeling, and research done at the IPHC. Commissioners are in charge of funding for all programs there, as well as deciding catch limits and regulatory changes for the fishery.

Unlike permanent commissioners, alternate commissioners can be appointed only by the Secretary of State. Those appointments are made at the Secretary’s discretion.

The agency has said it will “absolutely” not provide a budget for any alternate commissioner.

Nominations will be accepted until September 18, 2015. No deadline was given for when the final appointment will be made.

The Halibut Act, enabling legislation for the U.S. delegation, lists the criteria needed to serve on the  Commission. Of the three U.S. commissioners, one must be an official of NOAA, the two others must be knowledgeable or experienced about halibut. Of the last two, one must be a resident of Alaska and one must be a nonresident. Of all three commissioners, one must be a voting member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Historically, the NOAA official serving as commissioner does so for the duration of his career. The other two commissioners also served until retirement, traditionally, barring any unexpected circumstances. There have been exceptions to this over the 92 years of the Commission’s work, but service of 10-20 years, with no nomination process after the initial appointment, was common.

NOAA Fisheries has indicated that the nomination process will now occur every two years.