Environmentalist killer whale lawsuit is “an attack Alaskan fishing families”, say salmon trollers

Summer king salmon season set to open July 1 may not happen until lawsuit to protect killer whales is resolved.

Earlier in April in a press release, the Washington-based environmental organisation Wild Fish Conservancy wrote that it had asked a federal judge to halt a fishery in Southeast Alaska.

Killer whale
The organisation alleges the salmon is vital to the survival of endangered Southern Resident killer whales further down in the Puget Sound, Washington, USA. It filed a lawsuit against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) alleging it was in violation of the Endangered Species Act for failing to protect Southern Resident killer whales and wild Chinook.

Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director. PHOTO: Wild Fish Conservancy

Fault lies with fisheries managers and NOAA
“Alaskan fishermen are not to blame here; the fault lies with fisheries managers and NOAA for approving unsustainable harvest plans for decades,” said Executive Director Organization Kurt Beardslee. “Putting this fishery on hold is in the best interests of salmon, killer whales, fishermen and coastal communities from Alaska to Oregon. The whales need those fish to prevent their extinction. Allowing the remaining Chinook to return to their home rivers down the coast will ultimately benefit Chinook recovery and coastal fishing communities as well,” he added.

National Fisherman wrote that nearly 1,600 trollers who fish for king salmon with hook and line, in Southeast Alaska, could be docked.

The news comes at a time when Alaskan fishermen also face potential ruin from the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday, SalmonBusiness reported on the strict new rules are now in place for Alaska salmon fishermen to prevent the spread of the disease during the 2020 salmon season.

However, Beardslee said that it was a good time to call it off. “Change is always difficult and this is no exception, but in the long run preventing this over harvest will be beneficial to everyone,” he said.

In a press release, the Alaska Trollers Association saw the injunction as “an attack Alaskan fishing families”.

“It is both disheartening and surprising that this Washington group has overlooked the dams, habitat degradation, and toxic pollution in their own backyard and instead has focused their attack on a sustainable hook and line salmon fishery over a thousand miles away,” said Thatcher Brouwer, Commercial fisherman and Alaska Trollers Association Board Member.

“This frivolous lawsuit not only endangers our region’s economy and small-boat fisheries, but also the future survival of Northwest Chinook and orca populations. As a commercial fisherman, I have been proud to work with conservation groups in Alaska to protect salmon habitat. If fishermen are driven out of business, who will be left to effectively advocate for the protection of wild salmon and the habitat they depend on? Now is a time when we should be coming together and combining efforts to tackle these complex issues while we still have a chance,” added Brouwer.


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