State v. North Pacific Fishing, Inc.

MARITIME LAW

Madeleine Ayer

In State v. North Pacific Fishing, Inc., 485 P.3d 1040 (Alaska 2021), the supreme court held that a fishery resource landing tax imposed on two commercial fishing companies did not violate the Import-Export and Tonnage Clauses of the United States Constitution or 33 U.S.C. § 5(b). (Id. at 1045). The fishing companies did not catch or process fish in Alaska, but unloaded processed fish in Alaska ports and were thereby subject to a landing tax. (Id.). The companies sought a refund of the tax, arguing it was unconstitutional and a violation of 33 U.S.C. § 5(b). (Id. at 1046). The superior court held that the landing tax was unconstitutional under the Import-Export Clause because the companies’ fish product was in the export stream when the landing tax applied. (Id. at 1047). The superior court did not reach the companies’ other claims. (Id.). The supreme court held that the landing tax was constitutional under the Import-Export Clause because it did not prevent the federal government from speaking with one voice when regulating commercial relations with foreign governments, and because it did not disturb interstate harmony or tax goods merely flowing through Alaska’s ports. (Id. at 1049). Alternatively, under a different standard, the landing tax did not violate the Import-Export Clause because the tax was levied before the fish entered the stream of export commerce. (Id. at 1050). Nor did the landing tax violate the Tonnage Clause, because the tax was not imposed on the companies’ vessels or on the act of entering, trading in, or lying in Alaska’s ports, nor did it discriminate against vessels or impede commerce. (Id. at 1056). Finally, the landing tax did not violate 33 U.S.C. § 5(b) for the same reasons the tax did not violate the Import-Export or Tonnage Clauses. (Id. at 1057). Reversing the superior court’s decision, the supreme court held that the landing tax did not violate the Import-Export Clause, the Tonnage Clause, or 33 U.S.C. § 5(b). (Id. at 1058).

State v. North Pacific Fishing, Inc.

MARITIME LAW

Madeleine Ayer

In State v. North Pacific Fishing, Inc., 485 P.3d 1040 (Alaska 2021), the supreme court held that a fishery resource landing tax imposed on two commercial fishing companies did not violate the Import-Export and Tonnage Clauses of the United States Constitution or 33 U.S.C. § 5(b). (Id. at 1045). The fishing companies did not catch or process fish in Alaska, but unloaded processed fish in Alaska ports and were thereby subject to a landing tax. (Id.). The companies sought a refund of the tax, arguing it was unconstitutional and a violation of 33 U.S.C. § 5(b). (Id. at 1046). The superior court held that the landing tax was unconstitutional under the Import-Export Clause because the companies’ fish product was in the export stream when the landing tax applied. (Id. at 1047). The superior court did not reach the companies’ other claims. (Id.). The supreme court held that the landing tax was constitutional under the Import-Export Clause because it did not prevent the federal government from speaking with one voice when regulating commercial relations with foreign governments, and because it did not disturb interstate harmony or tax goods merely flowing through Alaska’s ports. (Id. at 1049). Alternatively, under a different standard, the landing tax did not violate the Import-Export Clause because the tax was levied before the fish entered the stream of export commerce. (Id. at 1050). Nor did the landing tax violate the Tonnage Clause, because the tax was not imposed on the companies’ vessels or on the act of entering, trading in, or lying in Alaska’s ports, nor did it discriminate against vessels or impede commerce. (Id. at 1056). Finally, the landing tax did not violate 33 U.S.C. § 5(b) for the same reasons the tax did not violate the Import-Export or Tonnage Clauses. (Id. at 1057). Reversing the superior court’s decision, the supreme court held that the landing tax did not violate the Import-Export Clause, the Tonnage Clause, or 33 U.S.C. § 5(b). (Id. at 1058).