A new player enters rockfish legal fray

Fishermen's Finest Inc. is seeking to intervene in the lawsuit major Kodiak processors have filed against the federal government over the new Central Gulf of Alaska rockfish catch shares program.

As you will recall, the processors argue the program is unlawful because it created shares only for fishing vessel owners.

Seattle-based Fishermen's Finest operates two large and well-known trawlers in Alaska, the American No. 1 and the U.S. Intrepid.

In its motion to intervene, Fishermen's Finest argues that if the processors win, the company would lose valuable quota.

What's more, a processor victory "would upend the rationalization process for many fisheries in the North Pacific," the motion says.

Rationalization means cutting up a fishery into individual shares. Fishery managers in Alaska have embraced rationalization as a way to alleviate safety and other problems that arise when boats "race for fish."

The processor lawsuit strikes at a burning policy question: Should the government award shares only to fishermen, or should processors receive them too?

While Gulf rockfish is not among Alaska's largest or richest commercial fisheries, it's apparent the rockfish lawsuit could turn into a titanic legal battle.

Deckboss hears we are likely to see more fishing vessel owners file to intervene in the case.