Southeast Alaska trollers are going fishing for kings on July 1

A decision reached by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday cleared the way for the multi-million-dollar Southeast Alaska summer troll fishery for king salmon to begin on July 1.

The appeals court ruled to halt implementation of a U.S. District Court decision that would have shut down this summer a Chinook salmon fishery critical to the regional economy, by agreeing that arguments in defense of the fishery met legal requirements for a “stay” of the lower court ruling. Litigation brought by the Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) argued that those salmon were needed by endangered Southern Resident killer whales in Puget Sound.

Grant Hagerman, regional troll fishery manager for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) in Southeast Alaska, said the agency anticipated that about 600 permit holders would fish. The allowable catch is still to be determined.

“The spring troll fisheries are active until June 30, so we are trying to make an estimate of what will be harvested between now and then,” Hagerman said.

WFC had no immediate comment, but salmon troll harvesters and their allies expressed relief.

“I am shocked, but grateful, and I am really grateful to the Tlingit & Haida (Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska) for filing an amicus brief,” said Matt Donohoe, president of the Alaska Trollers Association. “All along all of us on this side of the issue couldn’t believe we even had to fight at this level.” 


The Tlingit & Haida Central Council and 21 other Southeast Alaska tribes and Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act corporations filed that amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit on June 16, in support of a state of Alaska motion to stop the district court’s order from going into effect while the appeal is pending before the Ninth Circuit.

“If the court thought that we didn’t have an argument they would not have granted us a stay,” Donohoe said.

“This is a big win for the salmon, orca and our fisheries,” said veteran fisherman Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “I want to thank the state of Alaska, our congressional delegation, Central Council Tlingit Haida, Alaska Trollers Association, National Marine Fisheries Service, and everyone else who has worked hard to secure this reprieve. This allows our members to go fishing, and to keep doing what they do to provide high quality sustainable seafood.”

ADF&G Fisheries Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang echoed Behnken’s words, saying he was “incredibly proud of the coalition formed to defend our fisheries.”

The state of Alaska argued in its pleadings that the Southeast commercial Chinook troll fishery has little effect on listed species. The state contends that shutting down this troll fishery will not have an impact on the endangered whales as any Chinooks not caught in Southeast Alaska must travel some 700 miles past Canadian commercial and recreational fisheries, tribal fisheries, Northern Resident Killer Whales and Steller sea lions, who are also predators of large Chinooks, and Southern U.S. fisheries to reach the endangered whales.