Hawaii & Alaska
(Photo via The Salmon Project)

AK - Federal judge questions venue for king salmon injunction in orca case

A federal judge heard oral arguments on Thursday 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.

US Magistrate Judge Michelle Peterson heard testimony from attorneys for the Wild Fish Conservancy, the US Justice Department, and the Alaska Trollers Association.

Brian Knutson spoke on behalf of the Wild Fish Conservancy, which is headquartered in Duvall, Washington. He spent much of his 38 minutes explaining why this case should be heard in the federal courts, rather than in one of the several other venues for lodging opposition to fisheries management.

Fishing off of Alaska’s coast — in fact, fishing in coastal waters nationwide — is regulated under the 1979 Magnuson-Stevens Act. The Act has a built-in public comment process, and a process to file formal opposition to regulations — typically within 30 days of publication in the federal register. The latest biological opinion from NOAA Fisheries on the Alaska chinook harvest was in April, 2019. By waiting nearly a year, and then going straight to US District Court, the Wild Fish Conservancy is bypassing established process. Judge Michelle Peterson wanted to know why.

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