Commercial fishing groups bring new legal action over Cook Inlet’s federal waters

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Cook Inlet’s Exclusive Economic Zone. (From NOAA)

Two commercial fishing advocacy groups based on the Kenai Peninsula are again taking the federal government to court over its proposed management strategy for fishing in Cook Inlet’s federal waters.

The United Cook Inlet Drift Association and the Cook Inlet Fishermen’s Fund filed a complaint Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for Alaska. They allege that an amendment approved in April to the fishery plan for the inlet’s federal waters defers the federal government’s management responsibilities, in violation of the federal Magnuson-Stevens Act.

The affected waters, called the Exclusive Economic Zone, run from Kalgin Island south to about Anchor Point.

Wednesday’s complaint is the latest in a string of legal actions taken by the groups against the federal government. The legal back-and-forth has been ongoing for more than a decade.

The groups secured a legal victory in 2012 after challenging a plan that deferred management of Cook Inlet’s salmon fishery to the state of Alaska. The court again ruled in their favor in 2022, when a federal ruling that outright closed the waters to commercial fishing was vacated.

In the complaint filed Wednesday, UCIDA and the Cook Inlet Fishermen’s Fund have multiple asks.

First, they want a District Court judge to declare the federal defendants violated multiple laws, including the Magnuson-Stevens Act, when the amendment passed in April. They also want that amendment nullified, and for the court to appoint someone to supervise development of a new amendment to Cook Inlet’s salmon fishery management plan.

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