Strong reactions to Seattle judge shutdown of Southeast AK troll fishery

Alaskans say causes of orca decline more likely from toxins, pollution, vessel traffic and habitat loss in Puget Sound, which judge ignored.

by | May 4, 2023

Filed Under Uncategorized

State of AK has already filed an appeal

Credit: Puget Sound Institute

A federal judge in Seattle issued an order on Tuesday that could close the Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon fishery for the summer and possibly the winter seasons.

The lawsuit was filed by the Wild Fish Conservancy and seeks to protect endangered orcas that feed on the salmon harvested by the Southeast trollers.

Credit goes to Wesley Loy’s Deckboss blog which drummed up the following reactions:

The Wild Fish Conservancy called it “a landmark order halting the overharvest of Chinook salmon in Southeast Alaska that has persisted for decades, jeopardizing the survival of federally protected Southern Resident killer whales and wild Chinook populations coastwide.”

Eric Jordan from Sitka said: “Tough news for this lifelong troller.”

Eric Jordan and his troller ‘I Gotta’

The Alaska Trollers Association said the judge’s order “will cause irreparable harm to the communities of Southeast Alaska with no measurable protections for Southern Resident killer whales.” ATA is preparing to appeal the ruling.

SalmonState said it “condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the Wild Fish Conservancy’s misguided, destructive lawsuit against commercial salmon trollers in Southeast Alaska which in all probability won’t save a single endangered killer whale, but will ruin the livelihoods of thousands of Southeast Alaska’s most committed, long-term conservationists and wild salmon allies” and called the ruling “an abuse of the Endangered Species Act by out of touch, ideological, serial litigants.”

The state of Alaska plans to appeal “a bitter ruling” and said, “We’ll continue to pursue every available avenue in defense of Alaska’s fisheries.”

Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang called the ruling “wholly unfair and disappointing” and added, “This lawsuit does not attack fisheries that occur off the coasts of Washington and Oregon, despite the fact that those fisheries have significantly larger impacts on the ESA-listed species.”

The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association vowed to “continue to fight Wild Fish Conservancy’s spurious lawsuit,” adding: “The court’s decision is disappointing, not only because it puts the future of Alaska’s small-boat fishing families in jeopardy, but it distracts from the larger, more urgent issues that are causing the continued decline of the Pacific Northwest’s Chinook and orca populations. The science and data clearly shows that habitat loss, dams, climate change, water pollution, and urbanization are harming salmon and orcas in the Northwest – not our hook-and-line fishery that operates almost 1000 miles away and has done so sustainably for over 100 years.”

The state of Alaska immediately filed its notice of appeal.

The Alaska congressional delegation also condemned the court order.

 “Common sense and sound science must guide efforts to protect species. This uniquely awful decision blames Alaska for Washington’s problems, and suggests that an end to sustainable fishing in Southeast Alaska can cure decades of destructive environmental practices in Washington. If you want my ‘biological opinion,’ this is beyond ridiculous and cannot stand. The delegation will stand together, along with the State of Alaska, to fight this ruling,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski.

Senator Dan Sullivan said: “That a federal judge in Washington State sided with radical environmentalists to shut down our state’s small boat, hook-and-line troll salmon fishermen is outrageous. What’s most remarkable about this case is that the judge and Wild Fish Conservancy totally ignore much more likely causes of the orca decline, like the toxins, pollution, noise disturbance, and vessel traffic that have undoubtedly wreaked havoc in the Puget Sound region. This is the latest example of how extreme environmental groups weaponize and abuse the Endangered Species Act to devastate Alaska’s small businesses and entire communities.

Representative Mary Peltola added: “If this order is allowed to stand, Southeast Alaska will suffer a devastating loss, putting thousands of jobs at risk in communities that depend on this sustainably-managed fishery. I will be joining the state of Alaska, NOAA, Alaskan fishermen, and other conservation groups who agree that this lawsuit is frivolous and incapable of protecting a whale population that faces much greater threats such as pollution and habitat loss in its home region near Seattle.” 

[Read more: A lawsuit targets a Southeast Alaska salmon fishery to save 73 orcas. Critics say the Washington-based plaintiffs should look closer to home. Credit: Nat Herz at Northern Journal.

Tagged as:

About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.


You May Also Like

Pin It on Pinterest