Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Court clash Thursday in charter halibut case

Federal Judge Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of Washington, D.C., is scheduled to hear oral argument at 2 p.m. ET Thursday in the charter halibut case (Deckboss, May 22 and 26).

Lawyers for the federal government will try to defend a new regulation, to take effect Friday, that will cut the daily bag limit for charter boat anglers in Southeast Alaska (Area 2C) from two fish to one.

The government says the charter catch has grown to the point that it's causing a conservation concern in Southeast, where halibut abundance has been declining.

A group of charter boat owners and operators, however, is suing the government in a bid to sink the one-fish rule. They argue the rule is an unfair allocation hit against the charter fleet, and note that commercial fishermen, not charter boats, catch the bulk of halibut in Southeast.

The plaintiffs are asking the judge for an injunction to block the one-fish rule. That's the subject of Thursday's hearing.

The charter operators prevailed last year, when the National Marine Fisheries Service first tried to impose the one-fish bag limit.

Will the charter guys beat the regulators again?

Deckboss reckons it'll be only a matter of hours after Thursday's hearing before we see the judge's ruling.

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