Fishermen sue over Kasilof sockeye escapement

Posted: Sunday, July 07, 2002

KENAI (AP) -- The Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association and the United Cook Inlet Drift Association have filed suit against the state, seeking changes to the Kasilof River management plan adopted in February.

The commercial fishing groups want the state to return to a Kasilof River escapement of 150,000 to 250,000 sockeye salmon.

They also want the department to disregard limits placed on its emergency order authority by the Board of Fish.

A hearing on the group's request for a temporary restraining order is scheduled for Monday in front of Superior Court Judge Harold M. Brown.

According to the suit, not enough public comment went into the board's sockeye escapement decision, said Paul Shadura, president of the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association, an organization representing set net fishermen. The board raised sockeye escapement to 300,000.

''We were quite appalled at the way the Board of Fish ignored the public process,'' Shadura said.

The lawsuit accuses the Board of Fisheries of acting illegally.

''When they make radical changes to the escapement goal, they have to explain it in full detail so businesses can be aware of the changes. We feel they neglected to do that,'' Shadura said.

The suit also seeks to return certain powers to Fish and Game Department biologists that the Board of Fisheries eliminated in February when it ordered several closure dates on commercial fishing.

The board should not be responsible for managing the fishery, only setting the guidelines, according to the lawsuit.

''Essentially, the board gets to make the rules and the department enforces them,'' said attorney Jonathan Bauer, who represents the fishermen. ''Under the statutes, the department is granted broad power for emergency orders.''

The board violated those statutes in mandating closures without knowing how the fishery would shape up, he said.

Department of Fish and Game officials declined to comment on the case. A call to the Department of Law by the Peninsula Clarion was not returned.

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