O'Hara Halibut EIS

The O'Hara Corporation has called for an EIS (environmental impact statement) for the pending final action Halibut bycatch action at the June/Sitka North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) 223rd Plenary Session (meeting)

Read the letter from O'Hara's attorneys below

March 31st letter to NPFMC Chair Dan Hull

O’Hara Corporation requests NPFMC to prepare EIS for halibut bycatch reduction proposals

April 2, 2015, 5:25 pm

Jeanine Stewart Undercurrentnews.com 

Lawyers representing fishing company The O'Hara Corporation raised significant concerns to the bycatch reduction measures on the table for Alaska's groundfish fleet in a recent letter to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) chair Dan Hull.

The NPFMC is set to consider decreasing the bycatch limits for groundfish fleets by as much as 60% in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands at its June meeting.

Among their many objections, lawyers Andrew Minkiewiez and Anne Hawkins claim the amendment violates multiple national standards in the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA) and provides no benefits to the halibut stock.

"The Pacific halibut stock is not overfished, and while the International Pacific Halibut Commission has not defined a level of fishing pressure that would constitute overfishing, biomass is generally stable and there is no evidence that overfishing is occurring," the lawyers write. "Reducing PSC limits for halibut would have no biological benefits whatsoever."

The eleven page letter concludes with a request to the NPFMC and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) if they choose to pursue the reallocation of halibut catch under consideration.

They claim that a major action that would have severe economic impacts to large portions of the fishery and the economy requires the preparation of an EIS under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Central to their argument is that "The amendment [to reduce halibut bycatch levels] is not being developed in accordance with the National Standards."

"Most notably, any major proposed cuts to PSC limits for the non-target fisheries with the intent of increasing catch limits for the BSAI target halibut fishery constitute an allocation solely for economic purposes in violation of National Standard 5," Minkiewiez and Hawkins write, referring to the MSA standard that states allocations should be decided upon based upon "efficiency in the utilization of fishery resources; except that no such measure shall have economic allocation as its sole purpose".

The laywers also said the reallocation of halibut resources fails a "practicability test" as required by the MSA and the Conservation Act and that the reductions result in preferential treatment of one fishing community over another, which they say is prohibited in the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996.

Read more about the Halibut issue facing the Amendment 80 fleet (content gathered by FF):