March 31, 2021 (Juneau, AK) – The State of Alaska’s motion to intervene in a federal case that would threaten Southeast Alaska’s salmon fisheries was granted by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on Tuesday. The Wild Fish Conservancy, a conservation organization based in Washington state, claims that Alaska’s management of fisheries under the Pacific Salmon Treaty threatens the survival of several salmon stocks in Washington and Oregon, and the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales that depend on them.
“This is yet another example of radical outside interest groups attempting to put Alaskans out of work and shut down one of Alaska’s vital industries. The Alaska constitution ensures our fisheries are among the most sustainable and best managed in the world, providing opportunities for both current and future generations. We will not sit idly by as the livelihoods of our residents are under attack,” said Governor Mike Dunleavy.
The lawsuit seeks to shut down all salmon fisheries in the federal waters off the coast of Southeast Alaska. Federal waters run 3 to 200 miles offshore and comprise approximately 87 percent of the fishable area in Southeast Alaska. Authority to manage salmon fishing in the federal waters of Southeast Alaska was delegated to the State by the National Marine Fisheries Service consistent with the Magnuson Stevens Act.
The fishing industry is clearly a critical aspect of Alaska’s economy. The Southeast Alaska salmon fishery has averaged $806 million in output, $484 million in gross domestic product, $299 million in labor income or wages, and 6,600 full time equivalent jobs.
Doug Vincent-Lang, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said, “Sustainable management of our fisheries was one of the primary drivers behind statehood. I don’t take unjustified accusations and threats to state management of our resources lightly. We abide by the terms of the Pacific Salmon Treaty and comply with the terms of the Biological Opinion that is tied to it. We have a responsibility to look out for our fisheries and the citizens of Alaska that rely on them.”
The State of Alaska has joined the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Alaska Trollers Association in defending the Southeast Alaska salmon fishery. “It is important for Alaska to be represented on these types of issues,” said Attorney General Treg Taylor. “Alaska’s fisheries are some of our most vital resources, and we need to vigorously defend them from lawsuits attempting to shut them down.”