Alaska fishermen who hold catch shares of halibut, sablefish and Bering Sea crab and whitefish pay an annual fee to the federal government to cover management and enforcement costs for those fisheries.

The fee, which is capped at 3 percent, is based on dock prices through September and averaged across the state.

This month bills went out to 1,834 holders of halibut and sablefish quota shares, down 60 from last year.

The fee is up slightly for this year to cover additional costs to maintain information systems, says Carl Greene is Cost Recovery Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries in Juneau.

“The fee increased slightly to 2.8 percent for 2018, up from 2.2 percent, and yielded $4.6 million.”

The combined value of the halibut and sablefish fisheries this year was $161 million, a 22 percent decrease over last year’s value of $208 million.

“The value of the halibut fishery was down 24 percent year over year, while sablefish was down 21 percent.  Decreases were mainly attributed to lower dock prices with average halibut prices of $5.35 per pound down from $6.32 and sablefish yielding $3.68 per pound, down from $4.84 during 2017.”

Fee payments for halibut and sablefish are due by the end of January.

NOAA doesn’t track dock prices for Bering Sea crab, only the total value of the fishery, which continues its year over year declines.

“The total value for crab for the 2017/18 season was $164 million, a decrease of $24 million from the previous year.”   

That’s a 13 percent decline in value from 2017, which was down 17 percent from the 2016 value of $228 million.  The fee for crab catches, paid by 18 permit holders, increased slightly to 1.8 percent and yielded $3 million for enforcement costs. The bills for crab coverage fees are due in July.

Another group of about 18 boats that in 2016 began paying for fishery coverage costs includes big Bering Sea trawlers, mostly Seattle-based, that fish for flounders, pollock and other whitefish, including vessels owned by CDQ groups.

“The fee for these America fisheries Act programs was less than one percent and those fees were used to cover about $2 million in enforcement costs.”

Greene says that after this year’s fisheries, all payments must be made online.

“This is the last year that we can process checks in the office here. After this year they will have to go online to eFish and pay electronically.”