SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Southeast Alaska halibut limits temporarily lifted


June 10, 2007

Southeast Alaska charter fishermen have won a temporary reprieve from a one halibut daily bag limit that was imposed by a federal rule. Today U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer of Washington, D.C., granted the temporary restraining order that lifts the limit set June 1 by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The fisheries service set the one-fish limit in an effort to bring the charter catch within federal harvest limits.

That means that guided recreational fishing will revert to the two-fish bag limit for now. That could change again as a preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for June 20, 2008.

Charter fishermen said one halibut daily bag limit imposed an undue hardship on their businesses. Charter fishermen claimed the one halibut daily limit would bring economic harm on the economy of Southeast Alaska coastal communities.

Affidavits attached to the motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that was filed on May 29th along with the complaint showed losses to the 11 plaintiffs of approximately half a million dollars. In addition, two charter operators from Southcentral Alaska filed affidavits in support of the lawsuit showing that anglers are already shifting from Southeast Alaska to Southcentral Alaska, where anglers can still catch two fish a day, in response to the one halibut a day rule. Canada also maintains the traditional two halibut daily limit.

In a prepared statement the Juneau-based Halibut Coalition said they are disappointed in this morning's ruling granting a temporary restraining order (TRO) on a federal rule that established a one-halibut daily limit on charter anglers in southeast Alaska. The Halibut Coalition said the bag limit is necessary to constrain charter sector harvest to the 2008 charter halibut allocation and to prevent an overage of the total Southeast halibut quota. The charter sector has exceeded its halibut Guideline Harvest Level (GHL) for the past four years said the Coalition.

The ruling by federal district Judge Rosemary Collyer was based on procedural issues, not the more immediate concern of conservation said the Halbut Coalition. Quoting a Halbut Coalition news release,"The charter plaintiffs have based their challenge on technicalities, focusing on the wording of the preamble to the 2003 GHL proposed rule rather than the appropriateness of the 2008 charter allocation. The effect of the TRO is to hold the bag limit regulation in abeyance until a decision can be reached on the validity of the plaintiff's arguments."

"We are disappointed that the TRO was granted, but even more disappointed that the lawsuit was filed at all," said Halibut Coalition member Charlie Wilber, who is also Chairmen of the Board of the Seafood Producers Cooperative. "Resource over harvest can only be prevented if all sectors are effectively managed to their allocations. Setline fishermen are shut down when quotas are reached; if the plaintiffs object to the one halibut bag limit the only alternative that prevents over harvest is an in-season closure."

The Halibut Coalition, a group of associations representing the set-line sector of the industry, was not a party to the lawsuit, but has been monitoring the proceedings closely. Southeast setline quotas have been reduced by 43% over the past two years to reduce pressure on halibut stocks during this time of low abundance.

"The plaintiffs have conflated this issue in every way they could," said Wilber. "The process undertaken by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the International Pacific Halibut Commission has taken years, solid weeks of public testimony, and investment from all sectors of the industry, the public, and the professional managers. All that work should not be overturned based on a technicality. The resource has to come first."




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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska