ANCHORAGE, Alaska—A group of halibut charter captains are planning to file a lawsuit over new permits. New regulations are expected to force 30 percent of guided halibut boats in Southcentral Alaska out of business.
The new permits go into effect Feb. 1, but some sport charter captains are scrambling to pull together a lawsuit and injunction to stop the new law from going into effect.
Starting Feb. 1, sport charters need a limited access permit issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The catch is what it takes to qualify. Charters must prove they operated in 2004 or 2005, and 2008.
“That was the primary purpose, was to stabilize and prevent further growth in charter fishery,” said Rachel Baker, a NOAA Fisheries Management specialist.
Thirty-four percent of Southcentral sport charters are expected to stay docked; 43 percent will sit out in Southeast.
Some sport charter companies call the permit unconstitutional and plan to sue in the coming days.
“They didn't even publish this until ‘06, when it was already too late for anybody to go back in time and fish in ‘04, ’05, so that's one of the flawed criteria they used in going backward,” Haina said.
If charters don't qualify, it doesn't mean they're out for good.
“That's why the permits are set up this way it's intended to use a market-based system to allow for entry and exit for the fisheries understanding that some business owners might want to get out of the fishery and in that case they can transfer their permit,” Baker said.
Some charter captains say they can't afford to purchase a permit -- they're expected to go for over $100,000.
“They are losing all the value in their businesses without a permit, while the 60 others are adding huge value to theirs,” Haina said.
The charter captains say they won’t back down when their businesses are on the line.
The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council recommended the limited access permits in 2007.
To date, about 10 charter captains are joining in the lawsuit, but Haina says he receives phone calls and e-mails daily from captains interested in joining. He hopes enough join to bring a class-action lawsuit against the government.
Contact Jackie Bartz at email@example.com