Bycatch accounting in the North Pacific and the costs of the revised marine observer program implemented in 2013 are at the core of a lawsuit now in the hands of an Alaska U.S. District Court judge.
Judge H. Russel Holland heard oral argument from The Boat Company, Fixed Gear Alliance and federal defendants regarding the observer program at an April 16 hearing. At the end of the hearing, Holland said a final decision on the motions for summary judgment would take some time.
The Boat Company, a nonprofit that operates marine tours in Southeast, along with fishing opportunity and conservation education, sued the federal government over the revised at-sea observer program in December 2012. The Fixed Gear Alliance, which primarily represents commercial fishers using longline and pot gear, is also participating as an intervenor.
The revised observer program was implemented by the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, in 2013. It was intended to increase the statistical reliability of data collected through the observer program, address cost inequality among fishery participants and expand observer coverage to previously unobserved fisheries, such as halibut longline vessels, according to a summary from the agency.