Halibut charters sue feds - again

Posted: Sunday, May 24, 2009

JUNEAU - For the second year in a row, a group of Southeast charter fishing captains and lodge owners are suing the federal government over a one-halibut bag limit.

Last year, the National Marine Fisheries Service tried to impose a one-halibut daily limit on the charters, which have been exceeding a collective harvest guideline since 2004.

The charters pooled their money and sued in federal court. They won on a procedural matter, so two fish it was last summer.

The fisheries service said it fixed the procedural problem and reissued the rule.

Commercial halibut fishermen, meanwhile, have taken deep cuts in their quota. They say halibut are being depleted, and that the charter industry ought to accept the limit to protect the fishery.

But the charter group alleges in its complaint, filed Friday, that the fisheries service didn't identify specific conservation concerns in Southeast. They also said the fisheries service was using data more than a decade old, and that the new rule is unfair to the businesses it harms, among other allegations.

"The one-fish daily bag limit at issue ... is identical in all relevant respects to the rule that was invalidated by the Court," according to the new complaint.

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