Bethel Superior Court Judge Dismisses Challenge to ADFG Management of Chum and King Salmon
April 15, 2023
These allegations did not challenge any specific inseason management decision or regulation. The Department has managed and will continue to manage Alaska’s fisheries for a sustained yield.
Mr. Forrer asked the Court to “invalidate six decades of policy and admonish an agency based on nothing more than personal observations of one individual and scant, tenuous factual claims.” The Court stated “[t]his is something [it] cannot do.”
The Department of Fish and Game argued for dismissal because there was no dispute that the Department manages the Yukon-Kuskokwim fisheries consistent with the sustained yield mandate found in the Alaska Constitution.
“The State’s inseason management, area management plans, and statewide regulations reflect the Department’s world-renowned science-based fisheries management” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang. “Over the last two years, the Yukon and Kuskokwim fisheries have faced historically low salmon runs and the Department has managed the fisheries to preserve the stocks in the face of this crisis.”
The Court dismissed the case. Its decision reflects a deference to the Department’s science-based management and a serious concern with having a State court step in and manage Alaska’s fisheries. The Court added that Mr. Forrer’s failure to identify any “credible or relevant scientific basis for their claims” strengthened this observation.
Accordingly, the Court found that the decisions and policies of the Commissioner and Board of Fisheries are political questions not suited to resolution by Court. The significant deference owed to the Department and Board of Fish in matters of fisheries management strengthened the case for dismissal. The Court acknowledged its only role is to ensure that the Department has taken a “hard look” at the issue and “engaged in reasoned decision making” when making inseason management decisions and regulations.