Anglers' request rejected

King limits stay in place

Posted: Thursday, June 15, 2000

A judge once again has turned down a sportfishing industry group's request to block some new king salmon fishing restrictions in Southeast.

Lodge and charter owners say the regulations, put in place early this month, will force them to refund customers some money this year and lose repeat business in the future.

``I don't think anyone understands the scope of the impact'' on Southeast communities, said Joe Daniels, executive director of the Alaska Sportfish Council, which brought the lawsuit.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins, at a hearing Wednesday afternoon, declined to issue an injunction to stop the state from enforcing the regulations until the lawsuit is decided.

Collins last week turned down a similar request. The judge said she based her decisions on the unlikelihood the sportfishing group would win its case on the merits.

Collins said lodges and charters may be irreparably harmed by the new restrictions, but blocking the rules would only harm other user groups, such as commercial trollers and Alaskan anglers who don't use charters.

The Alaska Trollers Association, a commercial fishing group, filed a brief in the case opposing the injunction. If the restrictions were lifted and anglers took more than their quota, it would come out of the trollers' quota, they said.

``If I could, I'd order the fish to multiply and return to Southeast waters so all user groups can be served ... but I'm afraid that wouldn't be successful,'' Collins said.

The sportfish council's board of directors will decide soon whether to quickly appeal Collins' decision to the state Supreme Court, as well as whether to continue with the case, said its attorney, Mike Holman of Ketchikan.

The sportfish council argued that the new king salmon management plan, adopted by the state Board of Fisheries in February, was invalid because the public didn't know those kinds of regulations would be considered.

``The argument in court was let's have input from the sportfish industry to come to regulatory measures that will conserve fish and still allow the industry to survive and prosper,'' Daniels of the sportfish council said after the hearing.

But Assistant Attorney General Henry Wilson said the public notice was adequate, more than 100 people testified about the management plan at the fish board's meeting, and it's common for proposals to be developed during meetings.

The management plan ties regulations to levels of king salmon abundance as estimated by a statistical model. When there are relatively few fish predicted, which is the case this year, the plan directs the state Department of Fish and Game to choose from among 11 restrictions to slow down the sport fishery.

Fish and Game in early May lowered the daily bag limit to one king and limited nonresidents' annual catch to two fish. It issued an emergency order in late May that limited king salmon charters to four lines in June; barred nonresidents and any chartered anglers from keeping kings on Wednesdays in June and July, and all the time in August and September; and closed some areas near Sitka and Prince of Wales Island in part of July.

The sportfish council challenged the Wednesday rule, the four-line rule, and the different rules that apply to Alaskans who fish from charters and those that don't. But the council also asked for the entire management plan to be ruled invalid.

Among other arguments, Holman said it was illegal for the fish board to let Fish and Game use emergency orders to make decisions that allocate resources among user groups, such as guided and unguided anglers.

Holman said that was a legislative function that belonged only to the fish board.

And he questioned Fish and Game Commissioner Frank Rue on how he decided which restrictions to impose in the emergency order.

The management plan has four goals, which partly conflict with each other. One goal is to minimize restrictions on unguided resident anglers. Other goals are to provide for uninterrupted sport fishing and stability by not changing the rules during the season.

Rue said he balanced the four goals and looked for the most fishing opportunity for the largest number of anglers.

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