District court ruling allows commercial fishermen to operate in Cook Inlet

District court ruling allows commercial fishermen to operate in Cook Inlet
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 8:26 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Throughout this year commercial fishermen were unsure if they’d be able to fish in the Cook Inlet, but a ruling by the district court judge will once again allow them to operate.

This week, Judge Joshua Kindred ruled in favor of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association in their case against the National Marine Fisheries Service and the State of Alaska.

“This is a very substantial victory,” UCIDA Vice President Erik Huebsch said.

The court’s ruling reverses what was done in November allowing for boats to return to the Cook Inlet and continue to be managed by the state.

“The Court finds that NMFS’s Final Rule is arbitrary and capricious and not in accordance with law pursuant to the APA,” Kindred wrote in his summary of the case.

In November, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration blocked commercial fishermen from operating in federal waters through an amendment to a fish management plan.

The amendment restricted salmon fishing to state waters and did not allow for commercial salmon fishing in the federal waters of the Cook Inlet from 3 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles off the coast of Alaska known as Cook Inlet Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

“What I think the decision says is that you can’t use the law to stomp out one of the user groups,” Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, said. “We’re actually going to have to sit down and work out our differences, as we’ve done for many years.”

The court asks both sides to meet by Aug. 21 to look at possible solutions. NOAA did not comment on this story because of pending litigation.

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