State asks court to dismiss fishermen lawsuit

Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2005

The state of Alaska has asked the court to dismiss a suit filed against the state on behalf of Cook Inlet commercial gill- and setnet fishermen in October.

The suit asks the state to declare whether Commercial Fishery Entry Commission permits are property and if regulations developed by the Board of Fisheries since 1996 have resulted in a taking of property because of restricting access to the water in which they fish.

Soldotna attorney Arthur “Chuck” Robinson is representing the eight fishermen named in the suit, as well as another 400 Cook Inlet fishermen similarly situated.

The state’s motion, filed in Anchorage Superior Court, claims fishing permits are not unrestricted property and privileges granted by the permits are subject to the board’s regulations. The state also argues that the permits grant no interest to land or water that could be taken by board regulations.

A two-year statute of limitations also is referenced in the state’s motion to dismiss, since the fishermen’s suit references board actions beginning in 1996. According to that limitation, only regulations adopted in the two-year period before the suit was filed in October could be considered.

Therefore, the state concludes, “Plaintiffs claims are moot.” For John McCombs, vice president of the Cook Inlet Fishermen’s Fund and a 30-year Cook Inlet commercial gillnet fisherman, the case is far from settled.

“You can borrow money against (the permits), they can be inherited, and they can be attached if someone doesn’t pay child support,” McCombs said. “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck.

“They want to acknowledge it as property when it suits their purposes. That’s what this lawsuit is about.”

Robinson currently is out of state and will respond to the motion after his return later this month.

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