Halibut charters unlikely to win, D.C. judge says

Lawsuit goes on, but this year's Southeast charter clients get one fish a day

Posted: Friday, June 26, 2009

A Washington, D.C., judge who denied Southeast charter operators' request for an emergency relief from a one-fish daily bag limit said they were unlikely to succeed in their lawsuit to revoke it permanently, based on the evidence she had.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer is the same judge who sided with charters last year and granted such a preliminary injunction on the one-fish rule.

Collyer denied the charters a preliminary injunction on June 4, and on Thursday filed the full 17-page opinion explaining the denial.

The judge never held a full hearing on last year's case, because the federal fishery managers at the National Marine Fisheries Service withdrew the rule after Collyer granted the summer-long injunction.

NMFS reissued the rule this year and said it fixed the procedural error that hamstrung its case last year. The charters sued again this year in the same court.

Commercial fishermen have taken cuts in their quota; the charter sector has not. The commercial fishermen argue the charters should share in the burden of conservation, while the charters say they deserve a greater proportion of the fish.

The charters also say the one-fish rule is killing the industry in Southeast; clients can go to Southcentral Alaska and still take two fish a day. And they say too many fish are going to commercial fishermen.

Collyer said the charters had shown their businesses would be harmed by the new bag limit. But she also pointed to the cuts the commercial fishermen had taken during the time the charters were exceeding their guideline harvest.

"The (Commerce) Secretary promulgated the Final Rule for the very purpose of addressing fairness and equity - in order to address the imbalance caused by the de facto reallocation of the commercial industry to the charter industry," her order reads.

Collyer allowed a group of Southeast commercial halibut fishermen and processors, subsistence fishermen, and the cities of Pelican and Port Alexander, which benefit from taxes on commercial fishing, to intervene in the case against the charters.

• Contact reporter Kate Golden at 523-2276 or kate.golden@juneauempire.com.

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