Image: Alaska Beacon / FIS
No relief for beleaguered Southeast Alaska trollers: judge rejects request to keep fishery open
Thursday, June 01, 2023, 07:00 (GMT + 9)
The following is an excerpt from an article published by Alaska Beacon:
Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang said the state would appeal the denial immediately, but the clock is ticking before the scheduled July 1 start to the king salmon fishery
Source: Stockfile FIS
A federal judge has rejected a request to allow a staple Southeast Alaska king salmon fishery to proceed this summer while an appeal challenging its court-imposed closure plays out.
Richard Jones, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington state, denied the request by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration to set aside his own ruling from earlier this month. The ruling, aimed at protecting endangered orca whales, has the effect of closing this summer’s troll season for Chinook salmon in Southeast Alaska — a hook-and-line fishery that employs some 1,500 skippers and crew.
Jones, in a five-page order Friday, said he would not “stay,” or set aside, his earlier decision while the state’s underlying appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals plays out. In Friday’s order, Jones said the state’s arguments against his earlier ruling — arguments that stressed the financial impacts of a closure on fishermen and the region’s economy — are unlikely to win on appeal, which is a necessary finding for Jones to put the closure on hold.
The news comes just over a month before the July 1 scheduled start to the summer troll fishery.
Advocates for the trollers said Jones’ ruling was expected, and a necessary step before the stay request could also be brought to the Ninth Circuit. Matt Donohoe, board president of the Alaska Trollers Association, said the situation looks increasingly grim, as fishermen sink money into their preparations for the summer without knowing what the payoff will be.
The state will file that request immediately, Doug Vincent-Lang, Alaska’s fish and game commissioner, said in a brief phone interview.
King salmon typically make up between 40% and 50% of the fleet’s yearly harvest value, according to a 2019 study.
Trollers are also unsure about whether the previous ruling from Jones will even allow them to catch silver salmon, which make up most of the rest of their harvest, because there’s no way to ensure that kings aren’t accidentally hooked and harmed.
“We hope for the best,” Donohoe said Friday by phone from Sitka. “There’s so many people that may not be feeding their family because of this.”
Vincent-Lang said that the state’s current plan — “and we’re still talking about it” — is to allow the silver and chum salmon troll fisheries to open in July, and to leave the king fishery closed if the Ninth Circuit doesn’t reverse Jones.
But Vincent-Lang acknowledged that there’s still some legal uncertainty about what Jones’ order allows when it comes to the silver fishery. [Continues...]
Author: Nathaniel Herz, Northern Journal | Alaska Beacon | Read the full article by clicking the link here