Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bristol Bay nets are smoking

Wow, fishermen netted more than 1.8 million sockeye for the second consecutive day Monday in Bristol Bay, the Department of Fish and Game reports.

The tally for the season thus far is now over 10 million fish.

Some big days are yet to come if the harvest is to reach the preseason forecast of 24 million fish.

Spanish mackerel tonight for dinner!

Took a half-day charter this morning along the pristine Ocracoke Island coast aboard this 25-footer, the Hook Up.

The captain, Rudy Gray, has put in many a year commercial fishing along the Outer Banks in addition to showing tourists like me and my family a good time during summer.

We landed close to a dozen small Spanish mackerel amid warm, calm seas full of frolicking porpoises.

Thanks for a fine morning and some good fishing, Capt. Rudy!

Spanish mackerel in the box. Wesley Loy photo

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bristol Bay update: Sockeye run really surging now

Bristol Bay fishermen caught 1.83 million sockeye on Sunday.

That's slightly above the 1.8 million fish per day processors told the state they could handle this year at maximum capacity.

Sunday's catch was also the third consecutive day we've seen catches in excess of 1 million fish.

Obviously, the salmon run is really surging now so I'm not surprised to see processors impose buying limits, as we reported earlier today.

The total catch through Sunday is 8.2 million sockeye.

Bristol Bay boat sinks, five crewmen saved

From the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Pilot Point
Type: Watercraft accident
On 6-27-09 at 1753 hours, the village public safety officer in Pilot Point reported that the F/V Patricia Ann had sunk while fishing off the beach near Pilot Point in Ugashik Bay. The boat's owner, Al Evanoff, age 53, of Pilot Point, and the four other crew members on board were rescued by another fishing boat that came to their aid. The F/V Patricia Ann quickly submerged and then tipped over on its side. The U.S. Coast Guard was notified of the accident. There were no reported injuries and the boat is a total loss.

You can look, but don't catch

OK, we're not through June yet and already I'm hearing angry reports from Bristol Bay that some processors are struggling with the volume of fish and have placed gillnetters on delivery limits.

Catches exceeded 1 million sockeye on Friday and reached nearly 1.5 million on Saturday. The Department of Fish and Game hasn't posted the tally from Sunday.

Processors imposing limits year after year at Bristol Bay has been a sore point for fishermen, including Gov. Sarah Palin, whose family fishes commercially at Dillingham.

Despite the grumbling, however, we haven't seen appreciably more processors come into the bay.

Spokesmen for the industry contend existing processors have increased capacity over the years.

Yet here we are again on limits as valuable sockeye swim upriver, fishermen are saying.

More on this as I can get it.

Exxon reportedly to pay interest

Exxon Mobil Corp. will heed the recent ruling from a federal appeals court and pay interest on the U.S. Supreme Court judgment from last year.

That's the word from Frank Mullen, a Homer salmon fisherman and closer watcher of the 20-year Exxon Valdez case.

Mullen says in an e-mail that Brian O’Neill, one of the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs, announced the news to a group of Cook Inlet fishermen on Saturday.

The lawyer said the interest amounts to as much as $540 million, which is an even larger sum than the $507.5 million in punitive damages the Supreme Court awarded.

"Brian assured the crowd that checks for the interest portion of the award would be forthcoming in September," Mullen wrote.

I've checked with the court, but nothing official has been filed from lawyers on either side of the case.

I've also checked the Web site of the Seattle law firm that's handling distribution of Exxon Valdez money, but nothing is posted there either about the interest.

Deckboss has no reason to doubt Mullen's report, however.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

On Atlantic time

The Deckboss found at least one commercial boat amid the charter yachts in Hatteras Harbor Marina. Annette Loy photo

Thought I'd let you know I'm spending this week on the opposite coast, specifically the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Cape Hatteras long has been a summer vacation spot for my family. Sportfishing on charter boats is a big industry here, while commercial fishing seems to carry on largely out of sight of us tourists.

Anyway, I'm aiming to continue updating the blog with news and notes from Alaska's commercial fishing industry. I'll just be doing it from a continent away.

A deckhand on the Hatteras charter boat Good Times unloads amberjack, blackfin tuna, mahi-mahi and skipjack. Wesley Loy photo

Friday, June 26, 2009

Eat Wild!

Tasty event coming up tomorrow in Anchorage.

Trout Unlimited and seafood company Arctic Choice are sponsoring Eat Wild! at the South Anchorage Farmers Market on O'Malley Road at Old Seward Highway.

The event is to raise awareness of what the Trout Unlimited folks feel is a big threat to the Bristol Bay sockeye run — the planned Pebble copper and gold mine.

Deckboss reckons he ought to stay neutral on that controversy.

But he's cool with letting you know that from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow, you can get free samples of grilled Bristol Bay sockeye at Eat Wild!

Millions of sockeye already netted at Bristol Bay

The fishing is heating up at Bristol Bay, the Big Daddy of Alaska salmon fisheries.

Nothing compares to the bay — not the Copper River, not Cook Inlet, not Kodiak or the rest of the world, for that matter — when it comes to sockeye wealth.

State biologists expect a commercial catch of about 24 million reds this season, with the peak of the fishery to come around the Fourth of July.

We're seeing some considerable fireworks already, with close to 4 million fish caught through Thursday.

Should be interesting to see what kind of price fishermen get this year, what with the global recession and all.

If you'd like to follow the daily catch totals at Bristol Bay, click here.

Denby Lloyd addresses Yukon salmon situation

You've no doubt heard about the considerable discontent out in Western Alaska over the sorry state of the Yukon River king salmon run.

Certainly, Denby Lloyd has heard.

The state's fish and game commissioner recently visited some villages on the lower Yukon, and has penned the following column on what he learned.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Denby S. Lloyd, commissioner

Yukon River Chinook Bycatch: Respect is Vital to Fishery Management

Recently, I had the privilege to visit several villages on the lower Yukon River. I went with John Moller, of Gov. Palin’s staff, and knowledgeable employees from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to discuss this summer’s Chinook salmon management and recent action by the federal North Pacific Fishery Management Council to curb bycatch of Chinook by the pollock trawl fleets in the Bering Sea.

We knew we were repeating distressing news. As far as we can project, the commercial fishery for Chinook will not open in the Yukon River this year. I also knew that many Alaskans feel the North Pacific council should have taken stronger action to control bycatch. What I wasn’t prepared for, but should have been, was the graciousness and respect granted us by our hosts in Holy Cross, Anvik, Hooper Bay, Scammon Bay, Mountain Village and Emmonak.

Yukon River Chinook runs have been poor the past two years, and spawning escapement for the upriver, Canada-bound stocks failed to meet goals. Prospects for 2009 are similar. The management strategy will reduce harvest on those stocks, and shift some subsistence effort to healthier, Alaska-spawning stocks. This strategy had been developed during the course of several months with broad input from people up and down the river.

It’s important to remember that 60 percent to 80 percent of the “first pulse” of Chinook into the river spawns in Canadian waters. Protecting these fish sustains runs for future harvest by Alaskans and Canadians all along the river. Also, biologists monitor the run as it moves upstream, take in-season action based upon the number of fish actually returning, and work with local fishermen to relax restrictions if the run exceeds expectations. We see the sacrifices being made and the urgency of providing as much fishing opportunity as possible. Lastly, Fish and Game received funding this year, requested by Gov. Palin and authorized by the Legislature, to provide additional information for better management of Yukon River fisheries.

In-river actions are being taken under state authority within state waters, something well understood. However, the bycatch issue needed to be explained in the context of a complex federal management regime subject to substantially different laws and procedures. But we relayed that the six Alaska representatives on the North Pacific council led an unprecedented effort over the past couple years to exert real control over the bycatch of Chinook salmon in the pollock trawl fishery.

Admittedly, these limits are higher than advocated by many rural Alaskans. But combined with potential incentives that would further penalize bad performance by the pollock fleet and reward good performance, the council established a system to limit bycatch at all levels of Chinook abundance.

We heard concerns about other potential impacts to Chinook salmon: jet boats, mining, timber harvests on spawning grounds, lack of adequate fisheries enforcement, climate change, effects of management actions, and shifting fishing effort to later in the season. We all agreed we need a better understanding of Chinook salmon declines.

In Emmonak, one leader told us that while he came to the meeting thinking we were fighting against them, he now understood we were fighting for them. Another leader stood to shake hands with me in a sincere and symbolic gesture of mutual concern and respect. I was humbled by both.

I’m not foolish enough to think these meetings have overcome the anxiety, apprehension and even distrust that families along the Yukon River might still feel. I do, however, take exception to coverage by the Anchorage Daily News. In its apparent pursuit of speed over substance, the newspaper didn’t wait for Moller or me to get back into communication and did not even wait for the meetings to be completed. It seemed interested in neither context nor respect.

Yukon River Chinook are a resource requiring our best efforts to sustain and utilize. We hope these in-river restrictions will be short-lived. But the long-term control of Chinook bycatch has just begun. Offshore fisheries must account for the cost of their actions.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Benson retains North Pacific council seat

Here's a U.S. Commerce Department press release showing Dave Benson is staying on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council as a Washington state member.

Benson has been on the council since 2003.

The council, in case you didn't know, has 11 voting members from Alaska, Washington and Oregon.


A Bristol Bay marijuana bust ... a charter boat operator's 20-count conviction ... multiple citations in Prince William Sound ...

Catch all the law enforcement news today on The Brig.

Dersham, Hull council seats confirmed

Here's a press release today from Gov. Sarah Palin regarding federal approval of her two nominees for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Dan Hull, by the way, is replacing Gerry Merrigan of Petersburg.

Sarah Palin

June 25, 2009

Governor Palin’s Fishery Council Appointments Approved

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Governor Sarah Palin today announced that her two top nominees to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council have been approved by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Robert “Ed” Dersham and Dan Hull will begin their terms in August. Dersham currently serves on the council and has been reappointed. Hull has been an active public participant at council meetings and has served on council committees.

“I’m pleased that Secretary Locke has appointed these two knowledgeable Alaskans,” Governor Palin said. “The fisheries regulated by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council are incredibly important to Alaska’s economy and I have every confidence that Ed and Dan will put the resource first when making difficult decisions.”

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional councils established by the 1976 Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act, later renamed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, to oversee management of the nation's marine fisheries. The council has jurisdiction over 900,000 square miles of ocean from three to 200 miles off Alaska’s shores, and has primary responsibility for managing pollock, cod, halibut, sole and other groundfish.

Dersham, of Anchor Point, is a 23-year charter boat operator in Lower Cook Inlet who served on the Alaska Board of Fisheries for more than eight years, including three years as chair and two years as vice chair. He was involved in developing and chairing the joint protocol committee for coordination between the fisheries board and the North Pacific council. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Oregon and is retired from a career as a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Dersham has served on the council since 2008.

Hull, of Anchorage, has been an active fisherman and vessel owner for more than 25 years, fishing for salmon and halibut out of Cordova. He holds a master’s degree in marine affairs from the University of Washington and a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College. Hull is currently a board member of Cordova District Fishermen United and is a member of the Alaska Sea Grant Advisory Committee.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Who remains in line for Exxon Valdez money?

Lawyers in the Exxon Valdez case made some really important filings on Friday.

First, they posted yet another list of people soon to receive money.

The list has 407 names from 26 claim categories. These claimants will split nearly $8.6 million, minus attorney fees.

Another filing is this declaration from Lynn Sarko, the Seattle lawyer whose firm is handling the distribution of Exxon Valdez punitive damages.

The declaration spells out how much money has been distributed so far, and who can expect money in the coming months. Highly recommended reading!

Here are a few key points from the court papers I reviewed:

• After the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, lawyers for commercial fishermen and other plaintiffs worked a partial settlement with Exxon Mobil Corp. for about $383 million.

Once this latest batch of payments goes out, likely by August, more than 90 percent of the settlement money will have been distributed.

• The lawyers plan to hand out the rest of the money over several rounds.

One round will go to “unoiled fisheries.” Another round will go to people in “the smaller remaining claim categories” such as various shellfish fisheries in Cook Inlet, Kodiak and Prince William Sound.

• If I’m reading it correctly, the Sarko declaration says none of the $383 million will be going to claimants in the cannery worker category.

It’s not quite clear to me why not.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dead man on Bristol Bay beach?

Plenty of news today on The Brig.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Another Coast Guard officer relieved

The buoy tender Elderberry. U.S. Coast Guard photo

Top U.S. Coast Guard brass have relieved the skipper of the Petersburg-based cutter Elderberry for "loss of confidence" in his ability to command.

It's the second time in two months that a commanding officer has been relieved of duty.

The first case involved the head of the Sector Anchorage office.

Top Coast Guard commanders haven't disclosed details as to why the officers were removed.

Here's a press release on the Elderberry action:

U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District

June 18, 2009

Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry officer in charge relieved

JUNEAU, Alaska — Rear Adm. Gene Brooks, Commander, 17th Coast Guard District and Capt. Melissa Bert, Commander, Coast Guard Sector Juneau, temporarily relieved Senior Chief Petty Officer James Madsen Thursday from his duties as Officer in Charge of the Cutter Elderberry for loss of confidence in the ability to command.

Final determination regarding a permanent removal or resumption of command is made by the Commandant of the Coast Guard in Washington, D.C.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Woodward, assigned as the Officer in Charge at Aids to Navigation Team Sitka, has assumed temporary command of the Cutter Elderberry.

Senior Chief Madsen has been temporarily reassigned to the Coast Guard in Ketchikan, Alaska.

The Cutter Elderberry is a 65-foot inland buoy tender homeported in Petersburg, Alaska.

One-Adam-12, One-Adam-12, see the fisherman...

Not everyone is happy with my new companion blog The Brig, which offers daily reports of crime and bad behavior from across Alaska's commercial fishing world.

One image conscious commercial fisherman complains: "I read this thing and it is apparent that the AK commfish industry is a sham and that we're all a bunch of crooks and drunks."

I can sympathize with anyone who sees The Brig as poor public relations for fishermen and cannery workers.

On the other hand, what I'm posting is no different from the police blotter in any local newspaper. For some reason, crime reports captivate readers.

Having said that, be sure to check out today's posting on The Brig.

It's a classic.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Crossing the bar

Commercial fisherman Randy Johnson pilots his gillnet bowpicker, the Jaycie J, accross Strawberry Bar on his way back to Cordova on June 2 after a sockeye salmon fishing opener on the Copper River flats. Abnormally large southwest swells from a storm in the southern Gulf of Alaska made tremendous breakers and dangerous bar crossings for the fishermen who were expecting beautiful weather for the period. One 70-year-old fisherman's boat rolled on its side and was shoved down a large wave, but he was able to throttle the boat around, much like a surfer, and came out on the back of the wave to continue his journey. Photo and caption by Bob Martinson, a Copper River commercial fisherman

Norton Sound crab fishery opens

When it comes to Alaska crab, the glory fisheries are the big king and Tanner crab harvests of the Bering Sea.

But the state has lots of smaller crab fisheries in other regions, and they operate in relative obscurity year after year with no reality TV show to record the action.

One such regional fishery takes place way up north in Norton Sound.

On Monday of this week, the Norton Sound red king crab summer fishery opened at high noon.

The catch quota is 375,000 pounds. Of this amount, 7.5 percent or 28,125 pounds is reserved for harvesters in the Community Development Quota program.

The Norton Sound fleet generally comes out of Nome, as I understand it.

Good luck and good crabbing, guys.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hard aground

The commercial fishing vessel Moonshadow ran aground Monday morning about 30 miles west of Wrangell. Boom will be placed around the 42-footer, homeported in Petersburg, to contain any fuel spilling from the boat's damaged hull. U.S. Coast Guard photo

Monday, June 15, 2009

More on today's Exxon Valdez ruling

Here's a sliver of additional information on the appeals court decision holding Exxon Mobil Corp. liable for interest payments in the spill case.

"Any party seeking a rehearing must do so within 14 days of today's ruling," says Seattle law firm Keller Rohrback, which is handling distribution of damages to fishermen and other plaintiffs.

New Permanent Fund board member knows fish

Gov. Sarah Palin today named a new person to the Alaska Permanent Fund board of trustees, and he's someone well known in commercial fishing circles.

Steve Rieger is a management and finance consultant in Anchorage.

He's worked extensively in the past with Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., which is engaged in lucrative Bering Sea fisheries as one of the state's six Community Development Quota companies.

The Permanent Fund is Alaska's oil wealth savings account. Now worth $31 billion, the fund is invested in stocks, bonds and real estate, with the six-member board of trustees acting as overseer.

Here's the governor's press release.

Sutton, Merrigan join UFA board

United Fishermen of Alaska, the state's biggest commercial fishing trade group, has two new board members.

Ninilchik setnetter Cheryl Sutton and Gerry Merrigan, who works for Petersburg longline company Prowler Fisheries, were elected to replace Lindsey Bloom, a Bristol Bay salmon gillnetter, and herring seiner Chip Treinen of Anchorage.

UFA also announced today that Joe Childers will continue as president of the organization, and that past president Bob Thorstenson Jr. has been elected marketing chairman.

Court rules Exxon owes interest in spill case

Here's an opinion today from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals holding that Exxon Mobil Corp. owes interest on the $507.5 million judgment the Supreme Court ordered last year in the Exxon Valdez oil spill case.

This will push total punitive damages to roughly $1 billion.

But fishermen and other plaintiffs had best not hold their breath just yet for a share of the interest money.

Frank Mullen, a Homer commercial fisherman and close follower of the case, explains why:

"There are a number of moves available to Exxon to drag the issue out further:

• Exxon could once again ask for an 'en banc' hearing

• Exxon could appeal to the Supreme Court."

Mullen continues:

"I would not expect any payments associated with interest any time soon ... perhaps 2010?"

Gillnet gang goes west

Bowpickers raft in Whittier. Wesley Loy photo

Spent my Sunday afternoon over in Whittier, where I was surprised to see the harbor packed with gillnet boats you'd normally expect to find around the Copper River on the opposite side of Prince William Sound.

Some fishermen told me they came to the western Sound to pick up hatchery chum salmon, and maybe try for Main Bay sockeye.

It figures boats would move west, as the Copper River District was closed for most of last week.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dungie dispute

Here's a story the AP picked up out of Ketchikan about a new Dungeness crab fishery set to open Monday in Southeast Alaska despite a legal challenge from a local tribal government.

Oil drilling and Bristol Bay

So, are you aware that the federal government has proposed an offshore oil and gas lease sale for Bristol Bay in 2011?

Here's an article I wrote for the latest issue of Petroleum News about how one sale supporter is fighting for protection of fisheries.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A further update on the Allman Joy

I just spoke with Beth Ipsen, a spokeswoman for the Alaska State Troopers.

Troopers believe Frederick Washburn, who was found dead yesterday on his beached fishing vessel Allman Joy, had been out trolling alone for salmon, Ipsen said.

Washburn, who was 72, had some medical issues and this could have played into his death and the vessel grounding, she said. The body has been sent to the statewide medical examiner's office.

"Right now it looks like natural causes," Ipsen said.

The Allman Joy was found high and dry, with Washburn aboard and unresponsive, yesterday morning near Gedney Harbor along Chatham Strait, about 67 miles southeast of Sitka.

Captain of wrecked fishing vessel identified

Just spoke with the Alaska State Troopers in Juneau, and they identified the dead man found yesterday morning aboard the beached troller Allman Joy.

It was Frederick Washburn, who according to the state commercial fishing vessel database was from Sequim, Wash.

The trooper dispatcher I spoke with didn't have any information about what might have caused the grounding near Gedney Harbor some 67 miles southeast of Sitka.

State records show Washburn held two fishing permits: a statewide salmon power troll permit, and a halibut longline permit for vessels under 60 feet long.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported yesterday that the Allman Joy is a 36-foot boat, but state records list it as a 27-footer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tragedy strikes troller southeast of Sitka

Allman Joy hard aground near Gedney Harbor southeast of Sitka. U.S. Coast Guard photo

U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District

June 8, 2009

Coast Guard responds to grounded vessel, deceased captain

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Coast Guard today responded to a grounded fishing vessel with deceased captain on board about 67 miles southeast of Sitka.

Coast Guard Air Station Sitka launched a MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter after Coast Guard Sector Juneau Command Center received a call from the fishing vessel C'est La Vie reporting Allman Joy, a 36-foot fishing vessel from Port Angeles, Wash., hard aground and the captain unresponsive near Gedney Harbor at 7:51 a.m.

The helicopter crew launched at 8:41 a.m. and arrived on scene at 9:16 a.m. On board Allman Joy, the Air Station's duty corpsman could not get a pulse on the captain. The captain was pronounced deceased, taken aboard the helicopter, and transported to Alaska State Troopers in Sitka.

The Coast Guard and Alaska State Troopers are conducting an investigation.

A salvage company in Juneau has been hired to remove fuel and oil from the Allman Joy.

Here's an update on Exxon Valdez payments

The Seattle law firm handling distribution of punitive damages from the Exxon Valdez case reports handing out $248 million so far.

That represents about 65 percent of the $383 million Exxon Mobil Corp. has paid as partial settlement of the epic civil lawsuit stemming from the 1989 oil spill in Prince William Sound.

Law firm Keller Rohrback says money distributed so far has gone out in 23,784 payments to commercial fishermen and others claiming harm from the spill.

The firm has been plowing through the process of paying out the punitive damages since last November.

It's a tedious job, with dozens of different classes of plaintiffs involved, not to mention the IRS and other lienholders asserting some claim to Exxon Valdez money.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Will Southeast gillnetters go for marketing magic?

Salmon fishermen in two parts of the state, Bristol Bay and the Copper River and Prince William Sound, have self-imposed 1 percent landings taxes to pay for regional marketing associations.

Now the 475 gillnetters in Southeast Alaska are voting on whether to also fund a regional marketing effort under the banner Rainforest Wild.

You might recall the Southeast gillnetters held an election in 2006, but the vote failed.

Rainforest Wild organizers figure each gillnetter would pay an average of $373 a year to the marketing association.

Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by June 16, so we should know shortly thereafter if the Southeast fleet goes for a marketing association this time around.

Two people who think it should are Bob Waldrop and Beth Poole, who head the Bristol Bay and Copper River/Prince William Sound marketing groups.

They wrote this essay on why regional seafood development associations make sense.

Friday, June 5, 2009

What's next for charter halibut case?

Now that a federal judge has declined to block the one-fish rule, tourists and other anglers who go fishing on halibut charter boats in Southeast Alaska (Area 2C) will have to settle for one keeper a day instead of two, effective yesterday.

Now the lawsuit six charter boat operators are pressing against the federal government moves to trial.

"The trial on the merits of the case will likely commence in July," the Halibut Coalition said in a press release Thursday.

The coalition includes commercial halibut fishermen, processors and others who support the one-fish rule as a way to control the growing charter catch halibut in Southeast. That catch ultimately eats away at commercial catch quotas.

Thursday's ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer of Washington, D.C., was particularly interesting because a year ago she granted the charter plaintiffs an injunction blocking the one-fish rule.

She hasn't yet issued a written opinion, but evidently she feels the National Marine Fisheries Service has patched up leaks in the rule since the agency first attempted to impose it.

Salmon seiner turns tow boat

The commercial fishing vessel Leah C tows away a dead humpback whale that was carried into the Port of Valdez on the bulbous bow of the oil tanker Kodiak, which works for Exxon Mobil. The captain of the Leah C, Bernie Culbertson of Valdez, took the carcass to sea for disposal on Wednesday. NOAA Fisheries Enforcement is investigating the whale strike. Photo by Brielle Schaeffer, Valdez Star

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Update on halibut charter lawsuit

Reliable sources tell me a Washington, D.C., federal judge today declined to grant Southeast Alaska halibut charter boat operators an injunction to block the one-fish bag limit set to take effect tomorrow.

More details as soon as I can snag them.

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.

The Brig

Deckboss is launching a new feature today called The Brig.

It's a companion blog offering law enforcement news from around the Alaska commercial fishing world.

Look to starboard for a link or click here.

Check out The Brig daily for reports of fishing violations, violence, vandalism and even the occasional wastrel gone wrong.

Remember, just because someone is named in these reports doesn't necessarily signify guilt.