SEACC takes a stance on Wild Fish Conservancy Lawsuit

Written by SEACC

March 6, 2023

SEACC’s staff and board have been reading up on the Wild Fish Conservancy’s lawsuit seeking to end the Southeast Troll fishery over the last week, and after carefully examining the situation we’ve come to a unanimous conclusion. Our mission has always been to protect the special places of Southeast Alaska, including its wildlife. Our origins are deeply intertwined with Alaskan’s desire to protect healthy salmon runs and we have dedicated decades to safeguarding wild fish habitat and to supporting strong and healthy fish populations and the communities that depend on them.

We value and advocate for many species that make up Southeast Alaska’s marine ecosystem, from tiny herring all the way to giant humpbacks. So it’s not lightly that we oppose the Wild Fish Conservancy’s lawsuit concerning the Southern Resident Orca pod. We agree that wild salmon, orcas, and a great deal else in the ocean are in urgent need of protection. But we object in the strongest possible terms to this lawsuit.

The Wild Fish Conservancy’s case rests on an implausible and misguided premise, that King Salmon harvests here in Southeast Alaska are the main driver of the decline of the Southern Resident Orca pod.

The flaws in this argument are too numerous to list completely here, but they include that Southern Resident Orca populations have declined and risen with little to no relationship to Alaskan King Salmon populations or harvests, that Southeast Alaska trollers catch very few King Salmon headed to Puget Sound or the Salish Sea compared to more local harvests, and, most egregiously, that it ignores the massive environmental degradation happening in Seattle-based Wild Fish Conservancy’s own backyard — the actual habitat of the Southern Resident Pod — in favor of fighting a far off technicality. Our friends at Alaska Longline Fisherman’s Association have created the most comprehensive resource to understand the issue, and we encourage you to read directly from ALFA if you want to learn more.

Throughout our organization’s history, SEACC has worked to protect wild fish habitat, and we know that not only is the Southeast troll fishery sustainably managed, but that its fishermen are some of the most informed and effective advocates for wild fish conservation and habitat restoration.

We stand with them in advocating for sustainable management of the Southeast troll fishery. We join our voice to the many others calling for the National Marine Fisheries Service to hold the Southeast troll fleet harmless and find a way to continue the 2023 troll season as planned. And we urge the Wild Fish Conservancy to reconsider their misguided litigation.

The SEACC Board and Staff

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