Friday August 12, 2022

Anchorage Daily News

A U.S. District Court judge in Seattle has found the National Marine Fisheries Service has failed to ensure that Southeast Alaska salmon harvests not harm protected Pacific Northwest chinook and endangered southern killer whales that prey upon them.

The Monday ruling came in a brief summary judgment from U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones. It is a significant victory for the Washington-based Wild Fish Conservancy, which argued that the National Marine Fisheries Service approved a flawed plan to compensate for the harvest by increasing hatchery release of chinook.

“We applaud Judge Jones’ ruling that is finally calling into question decades of unsustainable Chinook harvest management in Southeast Alaska,” said Emma Helverson, Wild Fish Conservancy executive director, who in a statement called the decision a “watershed moment” for efforts to recover southern resident orcas and wild chinook.

The southern resident killer whales are an endangered community native to the Pacific Northwest that consists of 73 members across three pods: J, K and L, which have struggled amid a decline in wild chinook populations that are a key part of their diet. Some whale advocates have long looked with concern to Southeast Alaska harvests of the salmon.

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