Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Alaska Seeks to Intervene in Southeast Alaska Troll Lawsuit from Washington State

State of Alaska officials are seeking to intervene in litigation filed by a Washington state conservation entity that wants Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon troll fisheries halted to ensure a sufficient food supply for endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

The state’s request to intervene was filed this past week in U.S. District Court for the western district of Washington state. No decision has been issued yet on Alaska’s request, but the Alaska Trollers Association earlier this month hailed a decision by U.S. District Judge Richard Jones denying a motion by the Wild Fish Conservancy of Duvall, Washington, for preliminary injunction to halt the Chinook troll fishery this summer.

“Great news,” said Amy Daughtery, executive director of the trollers’ association.

Meanwhile, the Wild Fish Conservancy is pushing ahead with its lawsuit, citing the biological opinion issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for Chinook harvests.

According to Kurt Beardslee, executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy, research shows that 97 percent of the king salmon harvested in the Southeast Alaska troll fishery are from British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.

“When they are overharvested, it threatens recovery of those wild Chinooks on the West Coast,” Beardslee said.

The lawsuit seeks to shut down all salmon fisheries in federal waters from three to 200 miles off the coast of Southeast Alaska, which comprises about 87% of the commercial fishing area in Southeast Alaska. Management of that area was delegated to the state by the National Marine Fisheries Service, consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

State fisheries officials say that the Southeast Alaska salmon fishery has averaged $806 million in output, $484 million in gross domestic product, $299 million in labor income or wages and 6,600 full time equivalent jobs. Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang notes that sustainable fisheries management was a primary driver behind statehood. Vincent-Lang said the state is abiding by terms of the Pacific Salmon Treaty and complying with terms of the biological opinion tied to it.

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