JUNEAU, AK (June 21, 2023) – The Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Tlingit & Haida) is thrilled the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Ninth Circuit) issued an expedited ruling in the Wild Fish Conservancy vs. Jennifer Quan, et al case which will allow the Chinook (king) salmon trolling season to open on July 1 as scheduled.
This ruling overturns the Western District of Washington’s order that would have shut down the Southeast Alaska king salmon fishery due to concerns about the Southern Resident killer whales in Puget Sound.
Tlingit & Haida, along with 21 other Southeast Alaska Tribes and Native corporations filed an amicus brief last week in support of the State of Alaska’s request to stay the Western District of Washington’s order to close the fishery while the appeal of the order is pending before the Ninth Circuit. The State of Alaska and the Alaska Congressional Delegation, along with thousands of Alaska and Washington residents have weighed in to support Southeast Alaska’s sustainable hook-and-line troll fishery.
On Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit granted a stay in the case which means the lower court’s ruling does not go into effect while the appeal process goes forward. This is a temporary decision that allows fishermen to begin trolling for king salmon on schedule.
“King salmon support the economies of our region, and are an icon of our food sovereignty,” said Tlingit & Haida President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson. “This ruling means fishermen can feed their families and contribute to their communities. While we hope the court will ultimately dismiss this lawsuit, for now this is good news so our fishermen don’t have to wait for a lengthy legal process to determine if they will be able to pay their bills this winter.”
Southeast Alaska troll fishermen say the summer and winter king harvests can make up half or more of their annual fishing income. A 2019 study found the Southeast Alaska troll fleet provides an $85 million economic impact for the Southeast Alaska economy. This is why our Southeast Alaska communities and many others have long been committed to addressing the very real challenges facing Pacific salmon. Our people successfully stewarded salmon populations for generations and it is a victory to have our voices and traditional knowledge valued and heard in this lawsuit.
Commercial fishermen said they were relieved at the court’s decision.
“Although we can celebrate today, the battle to continue our way of life isn’t over,” said Julie Yates, a commercial troller from Craig, Alaska. “We will need to continue to educate people about our fishing industry and the real reason the Southern Resident killer whales are struggling.”
The parties in Wild Fish Conservancy vs. Jennifer Quan, et al will submit their briefing on the merits of the case to the Ninth Circuit by mid-October and a final decision will follow.