Juneau joins Southeast communities in backing king salmon troll fishery

king salmon
King salmon landed in the commercial troll fishery in the summer of 2019. (Courtesy Matt Lichtenstein)

The Juneau Assembly has joined PetersburgWrangellSitka and Ketchikan in supporting Southeast Alaska’s king salmon troll fishery against a lawsuit that could threaten its future.

A resolution passed by the Assembly on Monday night opposes a lawsuit filed by the Wild Fish Conservancy, a Washington-based environmental group. The group says the federal government hasn’t adequately addressed the fishery’s impacts on the food supply of Southern Resident killer whales in Puget Sound.

Assembly member Carole Triem drafted the resolution. At a committee meeting earlier this month, she said it’s important for Juneau to support the trollers.

“It’s a lot less visible in Juneau than it is in Petersburg, Wrangell, Sitka or Ketchikan – the size, and the impact of the commercial fishing industry – but it’s still a pretty big part of our economy,” she said.

More than 550 fishing and seafood processing jobs in Juneau, including those that rely on the king salmon fishery, brought in $27 million in wages in 2014.

In December, a magistrate judge recommended halting the winter and summer king salmon troll fisheries in Southeast Alaska. A final decision from a federal judge in Washington is expected to come soon.

Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski questioned whether the resolution would have much impact, since the magistrate judge already issued a recommendation.

“It just seems ill-timed,” she said. “It would have been better, of course, even a year ago, before the judge decided. You don’t really help a legal case by a resolution from an assembly.”

But Triem said the Alaska Trollers Association expects to fight the decision. The trollers argue that other factors – like pollution in Puget Sound – are more to blame for the whales’ population decline.

“The Trollers Association does anticipate a lengthy appeals process,” Triem said. “So in terms of timing, I think even though there’s been a decision made, it’s still appropriate for us to be signaling our support because it is an ongoing process.”

Several Southeast communities have contributed money to the Alaska Trollers Association’s legal defense fund. Juneau’s resolution did not include a donation.

Sitka Rep. Rebecca Himschoot has introduced a resolution in the Alaska House of Representatives urging federal and state agencies to defend the troll fishery.

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