Tour operator sues over new observer program

A Southeast Alaska sportfishing outfit called The Boat Co. has filed this lawsuit against the federal government seeking to block the expanded fishery observer program taking effect in the new year.

The suit says the revamped observer program isn't adequate to address "massive" bycatch of halibut and Chinook salmon in the Gulf of Alaska.

The Boat Co. describes itself as a nonprofit "cruise fishing operation" that allows clients to sportfish on skiffs deployed from two tour boats, the 145-foot M/V Liseron and the 157-foot M/V Mist Cove.

The suit argues planned observer coverage levels on commercial fishing vessels aren't adequate to collect quality bycatch data and make sound management decisions to "arrest the recent declines in the highly valuable halibut and Chinook populations."

These declines have affected The Boat Co.'s business, the suit says.