Coastal Community Residents
Intervene to Protect Halibut Resource
June 20, 2008
A wide range of individuals and organizations filed papers in
U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. on Wednesday to intervene
in the lawsuit filed by certain halibut charter businesses seeking
to increase their 2008 harvest above authorized levels.
On June 10, Judge Rosemary Collyer issued a Temporary Restraining
Order that blocked the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
from enforcing a one halibut bag limit on charter vessels in
Southeast Alaska. The purpose of the rule was to ensure that
the charter sector did not exceed their allocation for the fifth
year in a row.
The Intervenors support action by the North Pacific Fishery Management
Council and NMFS to hold the 2008 charter harvest to their 2008
harvest cap. Judge Collyer has scheduled a preliminary injunction
hearing for June 20 in Washington, D.C.
Intervenors include charter boat businesses, commercial fishermen
and families, subsistence users, communities, and Southeast seafood
processors. Common to all Intervenors is the concern that the
plaintiff's actions circumvent the public process carried out
by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the North
Pacific Fisheries Management Council (Council) over a 14-month
period. That process included comprehensive draft and final environmental
assessments, two public hearings, and a public comment period
on the proposed rule last January that generated 273 written
comments. Quoting a news release from the Juneau-based Halibut
Coalition, plaintiffs offered no new information to fishery managers
and the court other than what had already been considered in
the public process.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is vigorously contesting
Judge Collyer's ruling because of concern about overharvesting
the resource and disruption of the public process. NMFS and their
Department of Justice attorneys have requested a delay in the
preliminary injunction hearing so they have time to better prepare
their legal brief.
The International Pacific Halibut
Commission (IPHC) has filed an amicus curiae brief with
the court explaining the negative conservation impacts of repeated
charter overages. In his brief, IPHC Executive Director Bruce
Leaman states, "The IPHC catch limits explicitly presumed
effective management of charter vessel fisheries to levels specified
in United States fishery regulations. If the charter vessel fisheries
are not held to the levels upon which IPHC catch regulations
are based, the 2008 conservation targets accepted by Canada and
the United States will not be realized."
Halibut abundance in southeast
Alaska has declined over the past two years, triggering a 43%
reduction in the setline quota with another cut likely next year.
The Southeast charter allocation was not reduced until this year,
but charter operators have exceeded their allocation every year
since 2004 by 20-36% annually according to information provided
by the Halibut Coalition.
Federal managers and the International Pacific Halibut Commission
(IPHC) are charged with managing for sustained yield and protecting
the public's interest in fishery resources. The vast majority
of the public gets their halibut at grocery stores, restaurants,
and (especially in Alaska) through direct harvest.
"The public has an interest in the long-term health of the
halibut resource," said Jev Shelton, spokesperson for the
Halibut Coalition. "The Southeast setline fishery supplies
approximately 10 million high quality servings of halibut each
year to consumers and restaurant goers across the nation. That
interest deserves protection."
In commenting on the 2008 quota set by the International Pacific
Halibut Commission (IPHC), Tom McLaughlin, President/CEO of the
450-member Seafood Producers Cooperative noted, "In written
materials presented at the annual meeting, IPHC staff stated
that the halibut resource is at the lowest level in a decade.
IPHC data indicate that the decline in Southeast Alaska is serious
and driven by many factors, including the continual Guideline
Harvest Level overages."
"Resolving this issue is critical to relieving tensions
in Southeast coastal communities," said Shelton. "Clearly
both commercial sectors-setline and charter-need to share in
conserving the resource by staying within allocations."
Information provided by the Halibut Coalition states eighty-three
percent of the Southeast setline allocation is harvested by Alaska
residents; virtually all is processed in Southeast coastal communities.
The Halibut Coalition is comprised of fourteen halibut processing
and fishing organizations, in addition to over 500 individual
vessel owners and crew.
On the Web:
Judge Rosemary Collyer's Temporary
Restraining Order - June 10, 2008
Halibut Catch for Southeast Alaska
Charter Anglers Reduced to Protect Stock - NOAA's Fisheries Service issued a new rule
Thursday that states starting June 1, charter vessel anglers
in southeast Alaska will be allowed to keep one instead of two
halibut per day. - More...
May 25, 2008
Federal Court Delays Decision on Temporary
Restraining Order -
Following a hearing Wednesday morning, the U.S. District Court
of the District of Columbia deferred a ruling on whether to grant
a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would increase the daily
charter halibut bag limit in Southeast Alaska to two fish and
would allow charter halibut harvest to exceed sustainable harvest
levels recommended by the International Pacific Halibut Commission
(IPHC). - More...
June 05, 2008
Southeast Alaska halibut limits temporarily
lifted - 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. - More...
June 10, 2007
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