VOCAL EXERCISES - Artist in the Schools instructor Sarah Branton of Cherry Creek, Colorado, leads an exercise in the Sitka High School band room this morning as she teaches students how to improve their volume. Branton will be here all week working with choirs at Blatchley Middle School and Sitka High. Her instruction is part of the effort to rebuild school  choir programs and numbers following the pandemic. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Fishing to Open July 1 – Except for Chinook


Sentinel Staff Writer

The summer troll season for coho and chum salmon will open by regulation on July 1, but no Chinook retention will be allowed, the Department of Fish and Game announced Tuesday.

The decision to prohibit retention of troll-caught king salmon is related to an ongoing lawsuit by the nonprofit Wild Fish Conservancy against the National Marine Fisheries Service.

But Alaska trollers are holding out hope that the king salmon troll season will open as usual if a stay of a U.S. District Court order is granted by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, or federal fisheries managers make corrections to the biological opinion that is related to king salmon.

“We live and hope that the Ninth Circuit will grant the stay of the order from the U.S. District Court,” said Matt Donohoe, president of the Alaska Trollers Association.

ATA and the state of Alaska are defendant joiners in the lawsuit filed by the Wild Fish Conservancy against the National Marine Fisheries Service. The lawsuit is aimed at protecting the endangered southern resident killer whales, which spend part of the year in Puget Sound and prey on the same stocks of king salmon that are caught in the Southeast Alaska troll fishery.

The conservancy claims the Southeast Alaska troll fisheries and the associated hatchery programs to increase prey threaten  Endangered Species Act-listed Chinook salmon and southern resident killer whales that feed on them in waters off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and Canada.

Last Friday the U.S. District Court in Seattle denied a motion for a stay on the court’s order to vacate and redo the incidental take statement, which is related to king salmon. The state and ATA said the stay would have allowed the Chinook fishery to go forward while the state and other parties wait to hear from the Ninth Circuit Court on appeals of the District Court order.

Fish and Game issued a press release on the Southeast Alaska and Yakutat Summer Troll Fishery Tuesday afternoon. It provides a summary of the court case, and at the bottom in bold type it says:

“Directed summer troll fisheries for coho and chum salmon will proceed by regulation with retention of Chinook salmon prohibited.” 

Details will be provided in a late June summer troll fishery advisory announcement, the agency said.

Donohoe said he feels like trollers have been living under a “sword of Damocles” with the threat of not being able to troll for Chinook because of the lawsuit, and only the possibility of coho and chum fishing.

Donohoe said trollers had been told earlier that a coho fishery would “probably” go forward, “but I was not comfortable with ‘probably.’” He said trollers are making substantial investments for the season, and added that the market for early-season cohos isn’t good because of the relatively small size of the fish this time of year, and the banner catch of Bristol Bay sockeye last year. (Sockeye and coho currently are competing for markets.) 

Donohoe is keeping in touch with the ATA attorney, Douglas Steding, about the status of the case as it heads to the Ninth Circuit Court, with a request that the appeal on the stay be considered in time for the fishery to go forward with Chinook retention allowed.

WFC filed its lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2019, saying the service’s biological opinion required by the Endangered Species Act wasn’t done correctly. A Fish and Game news release explained that the Biological Opinion for the salmon troll fishery is an important document because it gives Endangered Species Act “incidental take” coverage, and allows Southeast Alaska Pacific Salmon Treaty salmon fisheries to operate.

NMFS, ATA and the state were dealt a blow on May 2, when federal District Court judge Richard Jones remanded the biological opinion to the fisheries service to fix errors, and vacated the Incidental Take Statement for the winter and summer commercial Chinook troll salmon fisheries until NMFS redoes the BiOp.

The state and other parties are appealing to the Ninth Circuit, and asking for a decision on the stay by June 23, to allow fishermen time to prepare for the king salmon troll fishery. The motion for a stay of the order – which would have allowed the fishery to go forward – was denied Friday by the U.S. District Court.

The Fish and Game news release explained that unless the Ninth Circuit grants a stay of the order, or NMFS has the required documents completed and approved, Alaska will not have the incidental take statement coverage for Chinook salmon during the summer troll fishery. 

“Accordingly, the Southeast Alaska commercial troll fishery will be closed to the retention of Chinook salmon throughout the summer fishing season. Any update on the pending appeal or the amended Biological Opinion will be issued in a future advisory announcement.”


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At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






September 2003

Sitka Tribe of Alaska is “upset and disturbed” about the Senate appropriations bill that cuts spending for Alaska tribal courts, STA Vice Chairman Gil Truitt said today. He was referring to Sen. Ted Stevens’ move to divert Department of Justice grants from tribal courts and tribal police officers to fund the Village Public Safety Officer program.



September 1973

Photo caption: Receiving service pins at a Carpenters Union Local 466 dinner meeting at the Kiksadi Club were, from left, Arthur Littlefield, Alvin Helm, Harley Finch, Dave Gibson, Gerald Hughes, Fred Nelson, Walter Moy, Edward Nelson, William Sutton and Don Stromme.


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