KODIAK — The sides continue to shake out in a lawsuit against the federal government’s rockfish management program.

On Jan. 24, Trident Seafoods, Westward Seafoods, North Pacific Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods and International Seafoods filed suit, alleging the rockfish program scheduled to begin May 1 is unfair and gives fishermen an unreasonable advantage in negotiations.

The rockfish program distributes quota shares that guarantee fishermen a piece of the annual harvest.

While rockfish are the target species under the program, the secondary sablefish catch is the prize. In 2006, rockfish landings were three times the weight of sablefish landings, but the sablefish were worth eight times as much.

In court filings, one fishing group estimated that one percentage point of the rockfish quota share is worth $100,000.

Several weeks ago, International Seafoods said it was withdrawing from the lawsuit because it was no longer in its best interests. Last week, the company made it official, as lawyers filed an amended complaint against the federal government.

As the plaintiffs were reduced by one, the federal government gained help on defense.

Fishermen’s Finest, which operates the catcher-processors American No. 1 and U.S. Intrepid, is joining the government’s side of the case.

In the switch from the rockfish pilot program to the rockfish program, Fishermen’s Finest gained more Gulf of Alaska rockfish quota shares. If the program reverts to pilot status, the company stands to lose up to $900,000 per year, according to court filings.

The rockfish lawsuit is still in its early stages. The processing companies are expected to request summary judgment in late July, and the defendants’ response will come by late August.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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