Sitka Tribe considers options on sac roe herring fishery

Officials with the Sitka Tribe are considering their legal options after Superior Court Judge Daniel Schally denied their request for an injunction against the state in a lawsuit alleging mismanagement of the Sitka sac roe herring fishery.

“The tribe was extremely disappointed in the ruling,” the tribe’s general manager, Lisa Gassman, said on Feb. 22. “Right now, we are considering our options.”

Tribal leaders have for the past two decades worried about the health of these herring, which are targeted by commercial and subsistence harvesters and marine mammals alike.

The 2018 harvest proved insufficient for both commercial and subsistence fishermen and the tribe is concerned that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game continues to use the same management model for 2019. In early December, the Sitka Tribe filed suit in the Alaska Superior Court seeking an injunction that would require ADF&G to develop a new management plan for the fishery period to the start of the new season.

Schally ruled that while no party disputes the importance of the subsistence fishery to the tribe that the tribe had not demonstrated that it faces “irreparable harm” if this relief isn’t granted before the start of the 2019 commercial and subsistence fisheries. And Schally said the tribe had not shown that the seine fleet and ADF&G would be protected if an injunction was issued.