King salmon season back on in Alaska after federal appeals court lets fishery open July 1

Two commercial troll fishing boats pass each other in 2020 at Mountain Point in Ketchikan, Alaska. (Dustin Safranek/Ketchikan Daily News via AP, File)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday halted a lower court ruling that would have shut down southeast Alaska’s chinook salmon troll fishery for the summer to protect endangered orca whales that eat the fish.

The ruling by a three-judge 9th Circuit Court panel means the summer chinook, or king, salmon season will start as usual next week for an industry that supports some 1,500 fishery workers in southeast Alaska.


The opinion said the state and others who were part of the appeal established a sufficient likelihood that certain and substantial impacts of the lower court’s decision “outweigh the speculative environmental threats.”

The ruling “recognized the absurdity of closing down a vital economic industry for an issue that is already being remedied by the federal government,” Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor said in a statement.

“Thanks to the 9th Circuit, fishing season is on come July 1.”

Last month, U.S. District Judge Richard Jones in Seattle ruled in favor of Wild Fish Conservancy and ordered the National Marine Fisheries Services to redo a biological opinion that’s required for the fishery to take place. The winter chinook season could also have been impacted by Jones’ decision.

The conservation group said it would help provide more food for starving whales and help struggling king salmon populations along the West Coast, since most of the salmon caught in southeast Alaska spawn in rivers to the south.

Tad Fujioka, the chairman of the Seafood Producers Cooperative, said the troll fishermen in his cooperative would have likely faced a 50% pay cut if not for the appeals court’s decision, leaving them with little since their margins are normally so narrow.

“It’s a big, big relief for me and all the trollers and all the people in the southeast who depend on the troll fishery,” Fujioka said. “In small villages trolling is one of the few things that you can do that provides year-round employment.”

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