Thursday February 29, 2024


Tad Fujioka always had great problem-solving skills. After studying and working as an engineer, he left the field 14 years ago to become a troll fisherman based in Sitka, Alaska.

“If you’re good at solving problems in one environment, that translates directly to another environment,” he told ABC News, adding that there are other benefits to the job. “I love the freedom to follow my instincts, I don’t have to report to a boss, I love being out on the water in a beautiful country.”

Today he’s the chairman of the Seafood Producers Cooperative in Sitka, Alaska, and supports his family by troll fishing on his 31-foot boat, the Sakura. One of the most important types of fish he reels in is king salmon — the largest and most expensive species of salmon in the Pacific.

But now, Fujioka is facing a new problem. The fish, which are also known as Chinook, are vital to the state’s rural economy but are also the primary prey for a group of starving orcas in the Salish Sea known as the southern residents. It’s a recipe for disaster that has Southeast Alaska’s troll fishery caught at the heart of a legal showdown that could potentially stop the king salmon harvest in an effort to help the endangered killer whales.

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