Exxon Valdez Verdict Issued

The Court in a split decision 5-3 with one member not participating due to holding Exxon Stock slashed the punitive damages to $507.5 Million rather than the $5 billion the court had originally settled on.  The majority opinion was given by Justice David Souter. “In the circumstances of this case, the award should be limited to an amount equal to compensatory damages, he said.”In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens supported the $2.5 billion figure for punitive damages, saying Congress has chosen not to impose restrictions in such circumstances. 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also dissented, saying the court was engaging in “lawmaking” by concluding that punitive damages may not exceed what the company already paid to compensate victims for economic losses.

“The new law made by the court should have been left to Congress,” wrote Ginsburg. Justice Stephen Breyer made a similar point, opposing a rigid 1 to 1 ratio of punitive damages to victim compensation.

ADN article http://www.adn.com/exxonvaldez/story/446057.html

Link to court case posted by ADN http://community.adn.com/sites/community.adn.com/files/07-219.pdf

Wallstreet article http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080625/scotus_exxon_valdez.html?.v=4

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Red King Crab Personal Use Fishery Closed – Will not Open on July 1st.

In two separate news releases today June 23rd, ADFG announced the closure of District 11A for both commercial and personal use for the 2008/2009 season.  In addition, ADFG announced the closure of all districts to personal use red king crab fishing scheduled to open July 1st until the red king crab survey assessments are completed.

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Preliminary Injuction Granted to Southeast Charter Industry

Today, June 20th the Judge denied the Dept of Justice’s request for a delay on the preliminary injunction hearing and granted the plaintiff’s (charter operators) the preliminary injunction.  This keeps in place the two fish bag limit – one under 32″ and the carcasses must be kept until landing in place until an appeal is filed and heard or the main trial on the actual merits of the case are heard.  The Judge stated that the trial would occur before “next fishing season”.

We’re disappointed that the Judge still does not understand that the one fish bag limit is about keeping a sector to within it’s allocation to prevent the resource from being over-fished.  

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Halibut Coalition Issues Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                    Contact:  Linda Behnken, (907) 747-0695

Coastal Community Residents Intervene to Protect Halibut Resource

Yesterday a wide range of individuals and organizations filed papers in U.S. District Court in Washington DC to intervene in the lawsuit filed by certain halibut charter businesses seeking to increase their 2008 harvest above authorized levels. 

On June 10, Judge Rosemary Collyer issued a Temporary Restraining Order that blocked the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) from enforcing a one halibut bag limit on charter vessels in Southeast Alaska.  The purpose of the rule was to ensure that the charter sector did not exceed their allocation for the fifth year in a row.

The Intervenors support action by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and NMFS to hold the 2008 charter harvest to their 2008 harvest cap.  Judge Collyer has scheduled a preliminary injunction hearing for June 20 in Washington, DC. 

Intervenors include charter boat businesses, commercial fishermen and families, subsistence users, communities, and Southeast seafood processors. Common to all Intervenors is the concern that the plaintiff’s actions circumvent the public process carried out by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (Council) over a 14-month period.  That process included comprehensive draft and final environmental assessments, two public hearings, and a public comment period on the proposed rule last January that generated 273 written comments.  The plaintiffs offered no new information to fishery managers and the court other than what had already been considered in the public process.

The NMFS is vigorously contesting Judge Collyer’s ruling because of concern about overharvesting the resource and disruption of the public process.   NMFS and their Department of Justice attorneys have requested a delay in the preliminary injunction hearing so they have time to better prepare their legal brief. 

The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) has filed an amicus curiae brief with the court explaining the negative conservation impacts of repeated charter overages. In his brief, IPHC Executive Director Bruce Leaman states, “The IPHC catch limits explicitly presumed effective management of charter vessel fisheries to levels specified in United States fishery regulations. If the charter vessel fisheries are not held to the levels upon which IPHC catch regulations are based, the 2008 conservation targets accepted by Canada and the United States will not be realized.”

Halibut abundance in southeast Alaska has declined over the past two years, triggering a 43% reduction in the setline quota with another cut likely next year. The Southeast charter allocation was not reduced until this year, but charter operators have exceeded their allocation every year since 2004 by 20-36% annually.

Federal managers and the IPHC are charged with managing for sustained yield and protecting the public’s interest in fishery resources.  The vast majority of the public gets their halibut at grocery stores, restaurants, and (especially in Alaska) through direct harvest.

 ”The public has an interest in the long-term health of the halibut resource,” said Jev Shelton, spokesperson for the Halibut Coalition.  “The Southeast setline fishery supplies approximately 10 million high quality servings of halibut each year to consumers and restaurant goers across the nation.  That interest deserves protection.”

In commenting on the 2008 quota set by the IPHC, Tom McLaughlin, President/CEO of the 450-member Seafood Producers Cooperative noted, “In written materials presented at the annual meeting, IPHC staff stated that the halibut resource is at the lowest level in a decade.  IPHC data indicate that the decline in Southeast Alaska is serious and driven by many factors, including the continual Guideline Harvest Level overages.”

“Resolving this issue is critical to relieving tensions in Southeast coastal communities,” said Shelton.  “Clearly both commercial sectors—setline and charter—need to share in conserving the resource by staying within allocations.”

Eighty-three percent of the Southeast setline allocation is harvested by Alaska residents; virtually all is processed in Southeast coastal communities. 

The Halibut Coalition is comprised of fourteen halibut processing and fishing organizations, in addition to over 500 individual vessel owners and crew. The Coalition’s mission is:   To protect the sustainability of the Pacific halibut resource, ensure fair and equitable allocation of the halibut resource among all sectors, and promote rational management of the halibut fishery.

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Dept of Justice Asks for Temporary Delay until June 30th for the Preliminary Injunction Hearing on the Halibut Charter One Fish

Reprinted by Permission SEAFOOD.COM

NOAA asks for delay in hearing on halibut charter rule for 10 days, charter interests are opposed
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton – June 18, 2008 – NMFS has asked for a ten day extension of the temporary restraining order suspending management of the halibut charter fleet to allow the government more time to prepare the legal brief in the case. The Halibut charter plaintiffs have opposed this extension.

In their motion (helpfully posted by Wesley Loy of Anchorage Daily News), NMFS gives the following reasons for an extension:

1) The halibut management issue is of extreme importance to NMFS and subject to international treaties.

2) The daily one fish limit was a management measure designed to help limit harvest by sport fishing vessels.

3) IN the absence of this and other measures, the charter sector is expected to substantially exceed the GHL’ in 2008. The charter fishery is not closed when the GHL is reached. As a result of the temporary restraining order, NMFS believes that additional harvest is already occurring that was not planned by NMFS and the International Pacific Halibut Commission in setting halibut quotas.

4)The request for a preliminary injunction would have a major impact, because the peak charter halibut season is the months of June, July and August. Should the preliminary injunction be issued, it would eliminate the ability of NMFS to manage the halibut fishery within quota guidelines this year.

The idea that the halibut charter fishery should operate without catch limits is a travesty. Either the industry should be prepared to shut down once their allocated harvest level has been reached, as is true with almost every other fishery in Alaska, or they should buy commercial quota if they need it to continue their season. If the charter fishery does succeed in derailing any halibut limits this summer, the reaction for the coming year would likely be much more severe. Those who live within established quotas do not look kindly on those who flout those rules.

Halibut charter fishermen don’t have the luxury of arguing on the one hand that they are economically important to their communities, and on the other that they cannot purchase additional quota. If their economic importance is due to their being subsidized by the commercial fishery, then it makes more sense to reduce the number of out of state halibut sports fishermen and eliminate the need for the subsidy by closing the fishery when the GHL for the charter fleet is reached.

John Sackton, Editor And Publisher
Seafood.com News 1-781-861-1441
Email comments to jsackton@seafood.com

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EPA Proposes Discharge Permits Because of Court Case Under Appeals

News For Release: Monday, June 16, 2008
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
EPA Proposes Vessel Discharge Permits

Contact: Latisha Petteway, (202) 564-4355 /petteway.latisha@epa.gov

(Washington, DC – June 16, 2008)The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing two general permits under the Clean Water Act that will cover discharges incidental to normal operation of commercial and recreational vessels. Based on agency estimates, as many as 91,000 commercial vessels and about 13 million recreational boats could be affected.

“EPA is proposing a practical approach as we work with Congress on a longer-term, comprehensive solution,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. “We believe it is good environmental policy and common sense to promote clean boating without imposing new permits on millions of boaters.”

As a result of a court ruling currently under appeal, vessel owners or operators whose discharges have previously been exempt from Clean Water Act requirements for the last 35 years will require a permit as of September 30, 2008. EPA is proposing control technologies and management practices that enhance environmental protection and are practical to implement.

The commercial and large recreational vessel general permit (VGP) would cover all commercial vessels and recreational vessels 79 feet or longer.
For vessels that carry ballast water, it would incorporate the Coast Guard mandatory ballast water management and exchange standards, and have supplemental ballast water requirements. The VGP would provide technology-based and water-quality-based effluent limits for other types of discharges including deck runoff, bilgewater, gray water and other types of pollutants. The permit also establishes specific corrective actions, inspections and monitoring requirements as well as recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Only a subset of the vessels potentially affected by this permit will have to submit a Notice of Intent for coverage; for all the other vessels their coverage would be automatic.

The permit for smaller recreational vessels measuring less than 79 feet in length contains simpler provisions. These smaller vessels, which are substantially different in both size and operation from larger vessels, would need to comply with new and established best management practices.
In addition, these smaller vessels would not be required to submit a Notice of Intent for coverage under the permit; their coverage would be automatic.

EPA is inviting comments on both proposed permits for a period of 45 days. EPA will be holding public meetings and a hearing starting June 19.

Information on the permits and meetings:

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MSC Says NO to Farmed Fish

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) said no to certifying farmed fish.

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Chatham Blackcod Quota’s announced

Sitka… The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced today that the 2008 sablefish annual

harvest objective (AHO) for the Northern Southeast Inside (NSEI) sablefish fishery will be 1,508,000

round pounds, slightly higher than the AHO used in 2007 due to a decrease in the amount decremented as

bycatch in the halibut fishery. The fishery opens by regulation at 8:00 am on August 15, 2008 and will

close at 12:00 noon on November 15, 2008. There are currently 97 permits for this fishery, five less than

in 2007; therefore the individual quota share (EQS) will be 15,550 round pounds (7.6% above last year’s

EQS of 14,450 round pounds). Permit holders should have received a certified letter detailing any legal

overage or underage (up to 5% of the 2007 EQS) incurred during 2007. Their 2008 Personal Quota Share

(PQS) will be adjusted accordingly. Permit holders who did not receive that certified letter should contact

Kamala Carroll directly (747-6688).

The abundance of sablefish in Chatham Strait forecasted using the 2006 abundance estimate of sablefish

which was calculated using mark-recapture methods was rolled forward this year rather than completing a

new stock assessment using data collected in 2007. The decision to forego a complete stock assessment

this year was made to allow time for the publication of the methods and results of the 2006 stock

assessment and the results of the work provided by the consultant. Both reports are expected to be made

available to the public in early 2009. For the 2008 fishery, as was done for 2007, a harvest rate of F40%

(0.116) was applied to the lower 90% confidence limit of the forecasted biomass to set the acceptable

biological catch (ABC). The ABC was then decremented to account for updated estimates of bycatch

from other fisheries and estimates of unreported mortality to produce the AHO. The increase in the AHO

for 2008 is a result of one thing only: a 20,000 lb decrease in the amount decremented for mortality in

other fisheries, this decrease is largely due to a decrease in the estimated bycatch in the halibut fishery.

The reduction in permits to the fishery results in an additional increase to the EQS.

Harvest Rate and Quota Determination Considerations

The Department has determined that the harvest rate used from 2004-2006 (F40% = 0.138) was

inappropriately high. In order to review our current stock assessment methods and explore the possibility

of using an age structured analysis the Department contracted with a consultant. That work revealed that

the stock level in Chatham is at a low level relative to the historic biomass and that the harvest rate used

in 2007 and now in 2008 is unsustainably high for a population at this level. For this reason the

Department intends to proceed with caution and conservatism with regard to the harvest of sablefish from

Chatham Strait, but will give the industry time to adjust to this information. Therefore fisherman can

expect that in 2009 the Department will use a more conservative harvest rate such as F45% or F40%

adjusted. These harvest rates are used by other agencies managing sablefish on the west coast. Beginning

in 2009 the Department intends to discontinue the precaution of using the lower confidence level when

setting the TAC, and instead use the point estimate. Additionally, in 2009 the Department intends to begin

deducting testfish removals from the ABC. However, the Department will explore options to minimize

the impact to permit holders regarding the deduction of testfish removals by integrating EQS harvest into

testfish fishing.

The Department has taken into consideration that there has been no definitive evidence of strong

recruitment into Chatham Strait, that there has been a reduction in the TAC for the federal fishery, and

that Canadian sablefish fishermen are seeing declines in abundance there.

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Court Grants TRO

At a hearing today June 10th, the Judge granted the Charter fleet a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the one halibut daliy bag limit.  This will make the halibut charter daily bag limit back to two halibut a day, one under 32 inches.

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No Decision from Court Hearing on Charter Halibut Lawsuit

There was a hearing this morning in WA DC on the request for a temporary injunction on the one fish halibut bag limit for charter clients that went into effect June 1st.  The hearing was continued on Tuesday June 10th.

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