Pending Gulf of Alaska rockfish lawsuit has major policy implications
September 6, 2012 -- Motions for summary judgment have been filed in a lawsuit over the new rockfish catch share program in the Gulf of Alaska.
Four companies with processing operations in Kodiak sued the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, in the U.S. Western District of Washington in January to overturn the new Gulf of Alaska rockfish catch share program, which took effect in May. In their July 20 motion for summary judgment, the processors also requested an opportunity for oral argument Oct. 5.
As of Sept. 5, Judge Marsha Pechman had not yet ruled on the processors’ request for oral argument. NMFS filed its motion for summary judgment on Aug. 23.
The lawsuit revolves around whether processors should receive a guaranteed share of the rockfish harvest, and has policy implications for the rockfish program, Gulf of Alaska fisheries management, and catch share programs as a whole nationwide.
Catch share programs allocate shares of the total harvest to indivdual owners, typically based on catch history.
The Kodiak processors — Trident Seafoods, Ocean Beauty, Westward Seafoods, and North Pacific Seafoods — want to be guaranteed delivery of a portion of the harvest each year. The current rockfish program does not give them that guarantee, as the past five-year pilot program did from 2007 to 2011.
The processors argue that the legal opinion upon which the harvester-processor linkage was severed was flawed, and offered contradicting management examples and segments of the Congressional record.
The 2009 opinion on which much of the case rests was a memo from general counsel of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council stating that the Magnuson-Stevens Act did not give the council the authority to give on-shore processors a guaranteed share of the harvest.
Read the full story at the Alaska Journal of Commerce.