The Sitka Assembly will give $25,000 to support the Alaska Trollers Association’s legal defense fund. The group unanimously approved the funding in a final vote on February 14.
The Alaska Trollers Association is an intervenor in a lawsuit that a Washington-based nonprofit brought against the National Marine Fisheries Service three years ago. The Wild Fish Conservancy aims to protect an endangered population of killer whales in Puget Sound by targeting the Southeast troll fishery. In December, a US District Court Judge issued a recommendation that could shut the troll fishery down until the NMFS makes some policy changes.
Since Sitka’s assembly signaled interest in supporting the trollers last month, more Southeast communities have jumped on board. ATA President Matt Donohoe thanked the assembly for spurring action throughout the region.
“Sitka led the way on this, and I want to thank you for it,” Donohoe said. “I’ve lived in Southeast Alaska for I think 50 years now, roughly. And I don’t remember anything like this in that 50 years.”
In early February the Petersburg and Ketchikan borough assemblies approved resolutions supporting trollers in the lawsuit. Ketchikan’s assembly also plans to consider its own $25,000 donation later this month, and its city council will consider a resolution on Feb 16. Wrangell’s assembly will consider a $7000 donation at a meeting this Friday. Other local organizations have garnered support for the group, like the Elks Lodge and the Seafood Producers Co-Op — their board voted to donate $59,000.
Right now a final decision on the court case is pending. And in late January, Governor Mike Dunleavy said the state is preparing to appeal the lawsuit to the Supreme Court, if necessary.