Local News

Suit filed over fisheries observer program

A small cruise line with ties to the conservation community in Southeast Alaska has filed a lawsuit over the federal fisheries observer program, saying that too many chinook and halibut will go uncounted when new rules take effect in January.

The Boat Company filed documents in Alaska District Court on December 21, challenging the restructured monitoring program developed by the National Marine Fisheries Service for federal waters off the coast of Alaska.

Earlier this fall, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced plans to move forward with a controversial rule expanding its on-board observer program to include smaller vessels in the halibut and black cod fleets. On-board observers have been a part of the large-boat trawl fleet for years.

In a news release issued this afternoon (12-27-12), Boat Company president Hunter McIntosh states “Fishery stakeholders expected that the restructured program would improve coverage of fisheries that remove the largest volumes of halibut and Chinook salmon as bycatch. Instead, NMFS developed an expensive and inefficient program that diverts observer coverage from trawl vessels to smaller vessels that use lower impact, selective fishing gear.”

The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, which represents many Alaskan hook-and-line fishing boats, spent the past two years testing an electronic monitoring system, which they claim is a more cost-effective, and more efficient, program than human monitoring.

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