Like a pitbull that won’t let go of a little kid, the Wild Fish Conservancy is continuing to try and derail increased hatchery Chinook production for Washington’s imperiled resident orcas after a federal judge ruled against the organization’s bid to halt what’s known as the prey program.
While U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Jones in Seattle did remand much of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s 2019 biological opinion authorizing the Southeast Alaska commercial troll fishery earlier this month, he left the prey program in place, but now WFC has filed for an injunction against it.
That led NMFS – which partially funds the program – and other defendants in the suit – which benefit from it – to submit a full-throated rebuke of the highly litigious Duvall-based outfit that is attacking ongoing hatchery increases for southern resident killer whales on multiple fronts, including elsewhere in federal court and in Washington state court.
“The work that began in 2019 to increase prey availability for SRKW is now producing real, in-ocean results for SRKW,” write NMFS, the Alaska Trollers Association and the State of Alaska in court papers filed earlier this week. “Plaintiff, an organization that purports to protect SRKW as a part of its mission and whose own experts say that prey abundance is the single most limiting factor for SRKW health, seeks to shut down the very program that addresses this limiting factor. That request should be denied.”
They do allow that there were “errors” in the overarching remanded biop, which NMFS plans to “fully address …. no later than Nov. 2024.” All three are also asking the court for a stay of Jones’ ruling to head off “severe economic consequences” of shutting down the upcoming summer troll season and next winter’s fishery off Alaska’s panhandle, which a judge on Friday denied. Per the feds, all parties in the case are appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, NMFS et al argue that WFC’s belief that vacating the biop and closing the troll fishery would cancel out the need for the prey program “suffers from multiple flaws,” including an “outdated and oversimplified” analysis and say it “fails to account for seasonal and spatial variability” of the salmon, “fails to properly characterize how the prey increase program works,” leans on “hypothetical” harms, and could lead hatchery operators to have to release young Chinook early – which could lead to increased mortality of the fish and missed benefits to SRKWs – and without mass-marking them, which helps differentiate harvestable fish from wild Chinook.
And they take issue with WFC’s court declarations that its members are harmed by the prey program yet still intend to fish for Chinook.
“Moreover, Plaintiff’s concession, that it seeks to harm the species it purports to protect through an injunction, is nothing less than extraordinary,” NMFS and the Alaskans write.
WFC simply wants to have its cake and eat it too. But not you.
While federal Magistrate Judge Michelle L. Peterson late last year issued identified issues with how the prey program was initially implemented, it has since been fully funded via Congress and Washington’s legislature for federal and state hatcheries and more than 19 million Chinook smolts are being released annually, fish that will have shirttail benefits for anglers.
“The prey increase for the 2023 and 2024 fisheries is already in the water,” NMFS et al state in court papers.
When is somebody besides a little old Northwest fishing and hunting magazine editor going to call out Wild Fish Conservancy’s bullsh*t instead of continue to be bamboozled by Beardslee et al?
[Wild Fish Conservancy], an organization that purports to protect SRKW as a part of its mission and whose own experts say that prey abundance is the single most limiting factor for SRKW health, seeks to shut down the very program that addresses this limiting factor. That request should be denied. –NMFS et al response to plaintiff’s motion for injunction pending appeal