Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 11:33 PM on Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Charter operators consider appeal

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer

More than 300 halibut charter captains disenfranchised by a new limited entry program have until Friday to appeal the U.S. District Court's denial of a preliminary injunction. Appealing the ruling comes down to a matter of dollars and cents.

"If we have money to proceed, we will, but if we don't, we won't," Kent Haina of Homer and spokesperson for Charter Operators of Alaska told the Homer News on Tuesday.

Forty-four COA members are named as plaintiffs in the suit seeking to stop the National Marine Fisheries Service program that went into effect Feb. 1. The program impacts Area 2C, southeast, and Area 3A, southcentral, where a combined 327 charter operators failed to show the required amount of activity in the qualifying years of 2004 or 2005 and in 2008.

Plaintiffs in the suit are being represented by D. Kent Safreit of Hopping Green and Sams in Tallahassee, Fla. In addition to the plaintiffs, financial support for the suit also has come from 50 contributors.

"I talked to our attorney about an hour ago and he's trying to get direction from us," said Haina. "Basically, he's trying to extend the deadline the judge set for today until Friday."

A survey of COA members has produced mixed results.

"Most say they'd like to proceed, but some are on the fence. It's strictly a money issue," said Haina.

Support has been offered by the National Federation of Independent Business, according to Haina. If COA pursues an appeal, the nonprofit organization has offered to file an amicus brief, a document filed in court by someone not directly related to the case being considered. Information contained in such a brief may be useful for a judge evaluating a case.

"From what I understand so far as an amicus brief, what they're offering would strengthen our appeal to have a membership organization like that be supportive," said Haina.

What Haina can't understand is the lack of support from other charter operators.

"Three hundred twenty-seven businesses are being put under, but only (44) signed the complaint. Where's the other 280?" said Haina. "A lot of them have just moved on, bought permits, leased permits or figured out what a plan is. That's all fine and dandy, but we should be part of a brotherhood of businesses."

Haina is one of the 300-plus operators not meeting program qualifications. He has appealed that decision and, until his appeal is heard, has been given an interim permit granting him the limited ability to charter four clients at a time, rather than six. Haina also is leasing one of seven permits made available by the City of Seldovia Community Holding Corporation through the NOAA Fisheries Community Quota Program. Through that program, Haina must either originate or terminate the charter in Seldovia.

"So every single one of my clients will have a nice ferry ride over there," said Haina. "I have a slip in Seldovia where they'll meet me."

In addition, Haina is reconfiguring his boat to begin commercial cod fishing.

"I was supposed to go today, but I didn't get (the machinery) wired up in time," he said.

For more information or to donate to Charter Operators of Alaska, visit www.charteroperatorsofalaska.org.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.