By CRAIG MEDRED
Unhappy with how the Alaska Board of Fisheries was managing the waters that lap at the doorstep of Alaska’s urban core, the United Cook Inlet Drift Association – the powerful commercial fishing lobby that long dictated salmon management there – in 2013 filed a lawsuit demanding a federal, management takeover in the center of the 180-mile long fiord that stabs into the state’s midsection.
After spending unknown tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys as the case dragged its way through the federal court system, they won big.
And on Monday they lost everything.
Acting on a federal court judge’s order to create a salmon fishing plan for the federal waters in the Inlet, the North Pacific Management Council – an arm of the U.S. Commerce Department – took an unprecedented action.
It accepted the state of Alaska’s argument that adequate numbers of salmon bound for Inlet streams and river can be commercially caught in state waters and simply ordered the closure of federal waters to commercial salmon fishing.
The decision shocked pretty much everyone involved with the fishery politics of Alaska.
“The fix was in,” UCIDA charged on its Facebook page, where it lambasted Alaska Deputy Commissioner of Fish and Game Rachel Baker for suggesting to the Council that regulation of a fishery in what is called the federal government’s exclusive economic zone from three to 200 miles off state coastlines would do little but boost the cost of fishery management for both the state and federal governments.