State: Fishermen suit dead in water

Posted: Friday, December 02, 2005

A lawsuit filed by Cook Inlet commercial fishermen against the state of Alaska and the Alaska Board of Fisheries may have no influence, according to the state’s lead attorney Steven Daugherty.

“We don’t expect the lawsuit to go anywhere or have any impact at all,” Daugherty told the Homer News on Monday.

On Oct. 25, a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment was filed in Anchorage Superior Court by Arthur “Chuck” Robinson, a Soldotna attorney, on behalf of commercial drift gillnet fishermen Steve Vanek, Teague Vanek, David Martin and Steve Tvenstrup and commercial set gillnet fishermen Tim Keener, Kenneth Coleman, Douglas Blossom and Mark Ducker. These eight individuals are representative of others in the same situation, a number Robinson estimates at 400.

The complaint asks the court to declare whether Commercial Fishery Entry Commission permits are property and whether regulations that the Board of Fisheries have developed since 1996 have resulted in a taking of property because of “severely restricted access of the permits,” according to Robinson.

In 1974, the state established the commission, which administers the commercial fishery entry permit system, awarding permits for specific gear types in specific areas of the state. If the court determines there was a taking of property without just compensation, then the state will have to compensate fishermen for that taking or remove the regulations, Robinson said.

Commercial gillnet fisherman Lee Martin of Homer is one of those represented by the lawsuit. He has fished in Cook Inlet since 1960.

“(T)he only way that we’ll ever have any input or control over the Board of Fisheries administration will be if we have some accountability and one way of getting that — the only way that I can see — is a financial accountability,” Martin said.

The state’s response to the suit is due by Dec. 12.

“We’re still looking at the complaint, but that’s where we are right now,” Daugherty said of his anticipation that the lawsuit will have no impact.

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