On the WFC Lawsuit and Injunction

ATA Postings

In the News

What researchers learned studying PNW orcas hunting for salmon 
Seattle Times by Isabella Breda – March 13, 2023 
In a first-of-its-kind study of the hunting behaviors of salmon-eating orcas, researchers found stark differences in two populations of killer whales that may have implications for their survival.


Press Release: Alaska Delegation Urges Court To Drop Deceptive Lawsuit Threatening Southeast Alaska Troll Fishermen
Sullivan.senate.gov – March 9, 2023 
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (both R-Alaska), and Representative Mary Sattler Peltola (D-Alaska), filed an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington this week supporting Southeast Alaska troll fishermen in a case that threatens to shut down their small boat troll fishery on the pretense that their salmon harvest is a primary contributor to the population decline of Southern resident killer whales hundreds of miles away in Puget Sound. The lawsuit does not consider the potential impacts of similar fisheries in Oregon and Washington.

Southeast Alaska troll fishery has deep local ties
Salish-Current.org by Peter Granger and Norman Pillen – March 7, 2023
The essays, analyses and opinions presented as Community Voices express the perspectives of their authors on topics of interest and importance to the community, and are not intended to reflect perspectives on behalf of the Salish Current.
While Alaska might be more than 1,000 miles away, Washington shares a lot more with the 49th State than most people realize. This is especially true in the fishing industry, where the relationship between Washington and Alaska runs deep and ripples throughout Washington’s economy and communities.

Southeast trollers appreciate support amid ‘misguided’ lawsuit
Alaska will not stand by quietly as WFC tries to wipe Alaska’s fishing families off the map.
Juneau Empire by Casey Mapes – March 7, 2023
As spring approaches, thousands of Alaskan fishing families don’t yet know if they will be allowed to fish for the prized Chinook salmon this year. For full-time commercial fishermen like myself who rely on Chinook as a primary source of income, not being allowed to troll this year would be devastating to my family and Southeast’s rural communities. That’s why Southeast’s trollers are so appreciative of the dozens of communities (most recently Juneau), associations, and businesses that have stepped up with letters of support, resolutions, and donations as Alaska’s trollers fight to save Southeast’s troll fishery from the Seattle-based Wild Fish Conservancy’s misguided lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service. If the Wild Fish Conservancy gets their way with the courts, then Alaska’s winter and summer Chinook troll fishery will be shut down and Puget Sound’s orcas and Chinook will continue to suffer from habitat loss, toxic pollution and urbanization in the Pacific Northwest.

Federal court opinion a win for Alaska’s summer king season
KCAW by Robert Woolsey –  June 11, 2020
Commercial fishing for king salmon in Southeast Alaska will likely open on schedule this summer. That’s after a federal judge denied a request for an injunction to keep the season closed.

Legal documents From WFC Lawsuit

Judge weighs shutting down Southeast Alaska Chinook fishery for Puget Sound killer whales FNX
KTUU by Grant Robinson – June 8, 2020
Fishermen in Southeast Alaska could see their season cut short if a federal judge issues an injunction requested by a Washington environmental group to protect the food supply of a subpopulation of orcas.

Federal judge questions venue for king salmon injunction
KCAW by Robert Woolsey – May 29, 2020
A federal judge heard oral arguments on Thursday (5-28-20) in a lawsuit brought by a Washington state environmental group seeking to shut down king salmon fishing in Alaska this summer, to protect the food supply of endangered killer whales.

Latest Updates From ATA

June 30, 2020: From ATA regarding WFC’s objections to the magistrate’s findings.

June 30, 2020: NMFS response to WFC objection

June 18, 2020: WFC’s Objections on Injunction Denial

June 9, 2020: Injunction Denied by Magistrate of the District Court
We just got word that the magistrate who is tasked with producing a findings & recommendations report for the district court judge in Seattle, has just recommended that the injunction not occur.  So this is great news…but we are far from out of the woods, so to speak…presuming the judge accepts the magistrate’s recommendation, we still have the main lawsuit to contend with.   So this is by no means resolved for us, it just looks good for the short term.

May 25, 2020: WFC Lawsuit Update 
The oral arguments on injunction will happen this Thursday, 5/28, will only pertain to jurisdiction, e.g, the 30 day window allowed in MSA was not honored and, secondly, the WFC’s ability to file in this matter since it is outside of their specified organizational charter.  We will post the outcome of this hearing on this website as soon as we know..

May 16, 2020:  No Word on the Troll Injunction Yet 
We receive many inquiries on the outcome of our legal efforts regarding the WFC lawsuit and particularly regarding the injunction effective July 1.  ATA filed Monday 5/10 as anticipated and NMFS filed Friday 5/15 as scheduled.  Next, the Magistrate will review our statements and affidavits, and consider all of the information provided.  Then the judge will do so as well.  This may take several weeks.  We will post the Judge’s decision on the injunction immediately as soon as we hear anything on this.  

Thanks for your patience.

April 21, 2020: ATA is Intervening on the Wild Fish Conservancy Lawsuit
In a unanimous vote last night, the ATA board voted to insert itself into the defense of the lawsuit filed in mid-March and its subsequent injunction against King salmon fishing via NMFS, and the troll fishery specifically. Becoming an intervenor is important to ensure that the interest of our membership is represented and our way of life is protected.

While we also rely on the involvement of NMFS and ADFG, we are confident that hiring Thane Tienson of Portland, OR, will produce the best outcome for trollers. Thane has extensive background, over 40 years, successfully defending many commercial fishing interest in ESA-related matters. His firm currently represents the Coastal Trollers in a similar lawsuit.

This frivolous lawsuit puts the short and long term future of our coastal communities and our small fishery businesses at serious risk. ATA is stepping up to the plate on behalf of SE Alaska economy, all power and hand trollers, and all commercial interests that harvest king salmon. ATA just happens to be the target this time.

We have a lot of fundraising to do. The ATA board and staff had zero opportunity to fundraise before hiring an attorney so we are doing so simultaneously. Please “dig deep” and donate to our legal fund now. WFC is doing just that now.

Go to: www.aktrollers.org to find our paypal button or send a check to ATA, 130 Seward Street # 205, Juneau, AK 99801. We can also take credit cards over the phone.

April 17, 2020: ATA Press Release: Injunction on SE Chinook Trolling Filed by Wild Fish Conservancy
An injunction to halt all King salmon trolling effective July 1, 2020 was filed yesterday in federal court by Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC). This action was added on top of the WFC lawsuit brought against NMFS which names troll interception as the cause of nutritional deficiencies of Southern Resident Killer Whales (SKRW). 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 focus their attacks on a sustainable hook and line salmon fishery over a thousand miles away.

Instead of focusing on their problems at home in Washington State, the WFC wants to shut down the lowest impact fishery on the water and arguably the most economically important fishery for small coastal communities. Here in Southeast Alaska we have pristine, abundant waters that nourish the salmon we catch and we pride ourselves in the careful fisheries management that has allowed the troll fishery to sustainably exist for almost a century and a half. Our hook and line fishery catches one fish at a time during tightly regulated openings. Since in recent years we have harvested but a small fraction of our historical Chinook catch, the timing and motivation of the WFC lawsuit is very suspect.

In every round of Pacific Salmon Treaty negotiations we have taken significant cuts: 35% in 1999, 15% in 2009, and at least another 7.5% a year ago. New provisions renegotiated in the last Pacific Salmon Treaty between the United States and Canada cut back catches of Chinook salmon throughout their migration routes specifically expecting to increase prey available to the SRKW. The new agreement also invests millions of dollars in additional chinook hatchery production and habitat restoration to support salmon and SRKW recovery. These brutal Treaty negotiations are all about conservation although here in Alaska we have not dammed our salmon producing rivers, allowed toxic fish farming or seen the population growth that Puget Sound has and that has resulted in decimated SRKW habitat.

Eliminating the tiny Chinook harvest in Southeast Alaska will not reduce the toxicity level in Puget Sound and greater Seattle area; the undeniable source of “peanuthead” offspring. Alaska Trollers Association (ATA) believes the threat on the SRKW population is from Washington State dams, pollution produced by Washington’s disease ridden fish farms and from the industrial waste of America’s fastest growing metropolis. The Rainforestsite, another Puget Sound environmental group, stated “Our Southern Resident Orca whales have some of the highest overall toxic loads and, in particular, highest PCB levels of any marine mammals anywhere in the world.” Connections between PCBs and birth defects are well documented.

The SRKW decline traces back to 1962 to 1976 when the State of Washington allowed the capture of 270 sexually mature SRKW for marine parks such as Sea World. This harvest of SRKW led to the creation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service’s statement that “the capture of killer whales for public display during the 1970s likely depressed their population size and altered the population characteristics sufficiently to severely affect their reproduction and persistence.” Alaska’s trollers should not be held accountable for the multitude of bad decisions and continued environmental degradation threatening this population.

Trolling has sustained our coastal community economies for nearly a century and a half – our harvest data goes back to 1911 – and we are regulated conservatively. The “no jeopardy” biological opinion under the ESA for SEAK Chinook fisheries was vetted appropriately and with knowledge of the resource and our impacts on it. We commend both agencies, NMFS and ADFG, for their defensive stance on this. ATA supports science based, effective and equitable conservation.

For more information, or to donate to the ATA legal fund, go to the website www.aktrollers.org

Contact: Amy Daugherty
Executive Director, ATA
(907) 957-8004