Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Eco-Tourism Company Files Complaint Against Observer Program

The Boat Company, a non-profit educational organization that provides luxury eco-cruises throughout Southeast Alaska, filed a complaint in US District Court in Alaska this past week over the new observer program.

The Boat Company is asking the court to remand the final rule on the observer program back to the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop a monitoring program that ensures that NMFS had adequate data regarding the discard of halibut, salmon and other species valuable to commercial, sport and subsistence harvesters.

The Boat Company’s attorney, Paul Olson, said there are serious concerns about the level of discard that results from deployment of non-selective trawl gear in federal fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska.
Without adequate data, fishery managers will not be able to make scientifically sound decisions to arrest substantial declines in king salmon and halibut populations that inhabit or migrate through the Gulf of Alaska, he said.

“The Boat Company,” said the 29-page complaint, “is injured when fish populations that are targeted by recreational fishermen are depleted to a level that the allowable recreational catch of such fish is reduced, as has happened here.”

Olson said he expects it will be a month or so before he gets a response from NMFS, and then it will take a few months to see how the case will proceed.

NMFS published a final rule in November implementing changes to its observer program, which went into effect Jan. 1.

Olson said cost is a big issue and there is a need for a cost efficient program for monitoring systems appropriate to different scales of vessels.

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