Orca-strated: Eco lawsuit has win in Washington, but Alaska appeals ruling harming Southeast troll fishery

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An environmental group that blames Alaska salmon fishing for the decline of Washington-area orcas won another day in court last week. On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones of Seattle denied the State of Alaska’s request for a stay of Jones’ May 2 order vacating the “incidental take statement” for the Southeast Alaska winter and summer commercial Chinook salmon troll fishery.

The document would give these fisheries coverage for the incidental “take” of species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The judge’s order has the practical effect of closing the directed summer and winter Chinook troll fisheries until a new ITS is in place.

Wild Fish Conservancy sued the National Marine Fisheries Service, alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. The group says that Southeast Alaska troll fisheries are at fault for the decreasing population of Washington and Oregon Chinook salmon and the Southern Resident Killer whales off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and Canada.

Troll fishing is one of the least intensive forms of commercial salmon harvesting.

The environmental industry plaintiffs make no mention of the major dams that Washington and Oregon have built over the many years that have cut off those states’ own supply of salmon.

The State of Alaska quickly filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and is filing a motion for stay of the judge’s order. 

The State is requesting a decision by June 23 so that the fishermen can gear up for the summer season, which starts on July 1.

“Vacating the ITS and effectively closing the fishery spawn disaster for Southeast Alaska’s economy and way of life while providing no meaningful benefit to the endangered Southern
Resident killer whales,” said Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang.

“Troll fishing for Chinook is critical to Southeast Alaska’s economy, local government, and culture. It is a way of life. And we intend to do everything we can to defend our fisheries.”
Vincent-Lang added, “the district court singled out an Alaskan fishery to shoulder the entire burden of conservation, while other fisheries, notably those occurring along the Pacific Northwest coast that have disproportionately higher levels of impact, are left untouched and unrestricted. This is unequitable and unfathomable. If this ruling sticks, we will be looking at having all fisheries treated equally.”

23 COMMENTS

  1. Gosh, a hundred fish and game biologists replaced by a single liberal judge. At least we can save money on agency staffing

  2. A Washington based judge ruling in favor of a eco nut job organization?
    Who’d have thunk it?

    Seems Washington would have more important things to do, like dealing with the cesspool known as Seattle.

  3. Washington state is no friend of Alaska. The liberal leftists state is gone off the deep end. A good percentage of alaska,s commercial fisherman are from Washington state. We need to make them support AK or increase used fees and a raw and process fish tax.

    • Alaska state is no friend of Alaska. Salmon fishermen are a select group of privileged elitists given a personal franchise on our public resources. I’m not allowed to commercial fish unless I buy a state franchise from another private individual that he was given freely (merely because he fished in his youth) The right to fish commercially should be purchased annually, fair and square by competitive bidding (or lottery) open to all Alaskans (just like restricted big game hunts). The existing system is tyrannical unless you are one of the chosen few given a free permit from the state that you can resell. Interesting fact: the legislators and governor that pushed this tyranny into law were, you guessed it, also commercial fisherman at the time. I thank this federal judge for stopping this unfair nonsense. Every Alaskan deserves equal access and opportunity to public resources.

  4. The question is, are all of the commercial fishermen affected based in Alaska or rather Seattle. Will it really represent a loss of revenue to Alaskans? I know a lot of businesses in Southeast and even downtown Anchorage are owned by Washington residents and a lot of commercial fishermen in Dutch Harbor are as well and their profits don’t enrich our local economy. So let them cut their own necks. Not our fight.

    • Trig, those Troll permit holders are generally small business owners who operate fishing boat less than 60 feet long and I suspect that most of the permit holders are residents of Sitka and Ketchikan with a sprinkling throughout the rest of southeast and some who are out of state. It’s not a high production fishery.

    • See my comment above. These fishermen from down south possess exclusive franchises on resources (fish) owned by the people of the state of Alaska. Yet, most Alaskans have no right to commercially harvest said resources. To do so, you must buy your permit from an out-of-state holder… who may have obtained it for free from the state in the 1970’s. Those original permits should have expired… rather than becoming re-sellable assets (franchises). We got ripped off by our own state government when it comes to limited entry fishing.

  5. Many fingers are pointed at the Mount Polley mine disaster that flushed 27 million cubic meters of toxic waste into southeast Alaska tidewater in 2014 with the Chinook Salmon possible victims of the earthen dam breech and have never fully recovered.

    • The only fingers pointing to the Mount Polley dam breach as an issue with SE Chinook belong to those who are wholly ignorant of the dam breach and SE Chinook.

      • Did you actually study the Mt Polley mine disaster?, of course not.
        You are acting out hate for anybody that studies environmental issues, completely ignoring data, studies of mining impact on clean water, salmon spawning grounds, you never even studied the pebble plan, why do I put up with you? I have patience, I’ll bring you along, you will learn 😉

        • Hahaha, you think you’ve studied Mt Polley or Pebble? Hahaha, how many square miles do you think the open mine pit in the Pebble Plan calls for? You’ve been telling us that it’s somewhere around 800+ square miles when the largest open pit mine in the world is 10 square miles and has been open since the 1800’s! You’ve also told us that they are going to dredge the open pit mine, you don’t even know the difference in mining techniques and you pretend you’ve “studied” Mt Polley and Pebble, hahaha.

    • Toxic waste ??? Ground up rock turned to sand??? Sort of like flows all summer down the copper / Yukon/ and most other rivers. So tell me what this toxic waste is. ???

      • Doug; The toxic waste is fine ground ore releasing acid generated sulfides and nuisance metals, namely leads and many other toxic poisons all caused by a earthen dam breach from Mt Polley mine which was touted and advertised as the model of the safest of all mines 😉

  6. Something certainly is wiping out the King Salmon in Southeast, but I DO NOT believe that it is the commercial Salmon troll fishery at fault……

  7. Where is the outrage from Alaska’s selected representative Mary Peltola? Maybe she is still bragging about her unconstitutional ranked choice selection. Or maybe she is beholden to the dark campaign money she received and won’t be looking out for Alaska’s fishing industry or the platform she campaigned on. Maybe she is too busy with Eklutna Inc to worry about Southeast Fisheries.

  8. 53 years trolling southeast we have helped Washington rebuild there fisheries with promise of payback then. Not so now. all wrong

  9. MT Poly mine is BS! Look at the Seattle Draggers killing an unbelievable amount of By Catch! Look at how many Orcas were killed in the 60’s trying to capture them for Sea World & other Water parks. And now they are so interbred no wonder they look emanuated! Stop the Draggers

  10. Liberal Washington state’s typical deflect and blame. Could it be the hundreds of homeless camps with no sanitary facilities draining into rivers and bays? The local rivers like the Duwamish full of chemicals from rain runoff? A biologically dead Hood Canal? Foreign fishing vessels off the coast? Nope, it’s a handful of Alaskans.

  11. Where is the actual science that the Orcas aren’t just migrating to other better fishing grounds??? I’m sorry these animals do not just stay in one place ever. Due to constant changing of our waters (normal) they are always moving looking for better food. You are gonna try and tell me, 50+ year Alaskan that the Washington killer whales are actually dying as a result?? Because they aren’t.
    They are leaving the area. Just like everything else in Washington state.
    The exodus is happening, and even the killer whales know. Another dumass judge that has zero idea about nature. Give me a break!!

  12. Southeast is too far away from Bethel for the Fishy Boat Captain for her to jump in the ring and spar with a Democrat judge who more than likely donated to an organization that helped elect her. Its all about her support $$$$$$ not the voters.

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