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Small-Ship Line The Boat Company Files Alaska Fisheries Lawsuit

I'd probably call this one enlightened self-interest: This week, small-ship line The Boat Company[1]filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) program for monitoring discard (bycatch) in large-volume trawl fisheries.

"Bycatch" is a term used to describe fish caught unintentionally while attempting to catch a different fish species. Trawl fishing involves pulling a large net through the water behind one or more boats. A single trawl net can scoop up thousands of target fish and bycatch.

The Boat Company's complaint addresses bycatch of halibut, salmon, and other species that are "important to Alaska's commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries." According to the company, the past five years have seen substantial declines in populations of halibut and Chinook salmon available to these fisheries. Its press release states that the company "has serious concerns about the level of discard (bycatch) that results from the deployment of non-selective trawl gear in federal fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska." The company's complaint seeks changes to the NMFS monitoring program, which, it contends, fails to concentrate enough resources on trawl fishing operations, which "remove the largest volumes of halibut and Chinook salmon as discard (bycatch)."

Without adequate data from monitoring, the suit contends, fishery managers "will not be able to make scientifically sound decisions that will arrest substantial declines in the highly valuable Chinook and halibut populations that inhabit or migrate through the Gulf of Alaska."

The Boat Company has a vested interest in safeguarding Alaska's fish populations. For more than thirty years, the company has offered trips that sail among the islands and coastal wilderness of the Tongass National Forest, building in substantial opportunity for passengers to fish from the skiffs carried aboard its two 20- and 24-passenger ships. Trips are loosely structured, sailing completely in wilderness areas and giving passengers the change to hike, take out kayaks, and go wildlife-watching excursions by inflatable launch.

blog post photo

The Boat Company's 24-passenger Mist Cove (photo: The Boat Conpany)

As you might expect, these are very expensive trips, with per-person fares for most weeklong sailings coming in at $6,895. There's an important footnote, though: Because The Boat Company is a not-for-profit cruise line that channels all revenues after operating expenses back into conservation efforts in Southeast Alaska, passengers can write off a big chunk of their cruise fares on their taxes.

A Boat Company executive put it this way when we spoke in 2010: "Because The Boat Company is a nonprofit, our clients as well as foundations and other organizations are able to make tax-deductible donations to us for general overhead operating expenses or even program-related issues" — that is, you can write off the portion of the trip equal to the amount that the line contributes to its conservation mission, an amount that can sum to more than $2,500. The company sends out statements after its fiscal year-end telling each passenger the amount of the charitable contribution they can deduct.

A great, nature-oriented small-ship cruise that's structured so you can write off a big chunk of your fare on April 15? That might be considered enlightened self-interest too.

References

  1. ^The Boat Company (www.theboatcompany.org)

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