The commercial salmon troll season is likely to open on schedule in Southeast Alaska on July 1, although an injunction petition that would shut it down remains alive in federal court.
US Magistrate Judge Michelle Peterson on June 6 recommended that the US District Court of Western Washington deny an injunction sought by an environmental organization that would close the fishery before it began.
The Duvall, Washington-based Wild Fish Conservancy filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service in March, arguing that its management of the chinook fishery in Southeast Alaska was harming endangered killer whales in Puget Sound, by jeopardizing their food supply. The Conservancy sought the injunction to halt the fishery until the lawsuit was settled.
Although Judge Peterson didn’t agree with the Conservancy’s arguments, her opinion was simply a “Report & Recommendation” to the district court’s supervisory judge, Richard A. Jones, who will make a final ruling on the injunction. In a 71-page appeal to Judge Jones filed on June 15, the Wild Fish Conservancy argued that Judge Peterson’s opinion was off-base. Attorneys for the US Justice Department, NOAA Fisheries, and the Alaska Trollers Association responded on June 29 that she had correctly interpreted the applicable fisheries laws.
Commercial king salmon fishing in Southeast opens on July 1, and is expected to last seven or eight days. About 600 permit holders are expected to harvest around 85,000 fish — about 70-percent of the total harvest allocated to them this year under the Pacific Salmon Treaty. A final ruling on the injunction from the US District Court of Western Washington is not expected before the close of this first summer season.