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State Backs Feds in Lawsuit over Fisheries Management

Published On: Jan 14 2014 08:10:30 PM AKST   Updated On: Jul 02 2015 11:53:57 AM AKDT

Fisheries Management


A group of fish processors, permit holders and crew members are suing the federal government over a measure giving the Department of Commerce broad authority to manage and conserve coastal fisheries.

The 312-member United Cook Inlet Drift Association says the state's salmon management plan is inadequate. The group is suing to make the federal government the lead regulator in state waters.

The Feds say they're not cut out for that job and the state of Alaska agrees, and is backing the federal government in this case.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is the defendant both groups want to take over managing all five species of salmon in the Cook Inlet region.  Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the state can regulate the salmon fisheries up to three miles off shore.

"One of the things that would be so cumbersome about having two management systems is that user groups would have to go through two regulatory processes for everything they do, the state regulatory process and the federal regulatory process,” said Fish & Game Commissioner Cora Campbell.

Federal regulators admitted they wouldn't be able to respond to change in abundance or have the ability to enact emergency closures.

Channel 2 reached out to the UCIDA and the attorneys representing the organization, but have yet to hear back.  Director Roland Maw declined an invitation to testify before a joint House-Senate Subcommittee Tuesday.

“UCIDA supports the conservation and management measures necessary to prevent overfishing while achieving, on a continuing basis, the maximum (optimum) yield from each fishery for the United States Fishing Industry,” Maw said in a letter addressed to the committee.

"There are threatened species listings of Beluga in the inlet, it's uncertain how that is going to impact salmon management in the state, there are budget shortfalls happening just within the National Marine Fisheries Service," said Ricky Gease, Director of the Kenai Sport Fishing Association.

Commissioner Campbell says the pending lawsuit has no effect on current management practices in Cook Inlet.