Alaska Files New Appeal in Litigation over Southeast Alaska Chinook Salmon Fishery

Image: Wild Fish Conservancy.

Alaska officials have filed a new motion with the Ninth Circuit Court for a stay of the district court’s vacatur order of the incidental take statement (ITS) for the Southeast Alaska winter and summer commercial Chinook salmon troll fishery.

That action this past week (May 26) came on the heels of U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones’s decision denying the state’s request for a stay of his May 2 order vacating the ITS for the fisheries. That order has the practical effect of closing those two fisheries, which are vital to the Southeast Alaska economy, until a new ITS is in place.

The litigation began when the Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) in Seattle sued National Marine Fisheries Service, alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. The primary claim of the WFC is that Southeast Alaska troll fisheries and the targeted fish and associated prey increase (hatchery) programs threaten Southern Resident killer whales in the Puget Sound region that depend on them for food.

Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang said that vacating the ITS and effectively closing the fishery spawn disaster for the Southeast Alaska economy and way of life while providing no meaningful benefit to the endangered Southern Resident orcas.

WFC executive director Emily Helverson noted that while the court denied both the Alaska motion to stay the WFC remedy and WFC’s request to halt the prey increase program, essentially upholding its original decision, that both parties still have an opportunity to raise these motions again at the Ninth Circuit Court.