The Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Fund lawsuit against the Alaska Department of Fish & Game is wrapping up its second day of hearings in Anchorage today. Attorney for CIFF Leslie Need said they presented facts and witnesses today, and will continue the court proceedings tomorrow. She said CIFF had three witnesses on the stand: CIFF’s Doug Blossom, ADF&G local area management biologist Pat Shields, and retired ADF&G area management biologist Jeff Fox.
Need: “We were very pleased with the testimony of Doug Blossom. He’s a great spokesperson for the Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Fund. He gave a very compelling story of how the closures last year and the closures this year really affect families and businesses and family-owned businesses. These folks have been fishing at these set net sites for decades. Doug has been there since the ’40’s and he’s put a lot of time and effort into this fishery, and we were very pleased that his story was able to come across so well to the court.”
Need said she felt confident about CIFF’s position that the ADF&G is acting outside the management plan, and ought to be directed to return to the prescribed strategies.
On the other hand, she said the State argues that they have the discretion to make extraordinary decisions in extraordinary situations, like the one currently seen with low King Salmon abundance.
Need: “I think that the Department’s using data that was already considered by the Board of Fisheries. They’re using that data in order to justify their operation outside of what was contemplated by the Board of Fisheries in the management plans and we think that they are failing to operate by the management plans as directed by the Board.”
The State called Commercial Fisheries Director Jeff Regnart as a witness, as well as Chief Scientist Bob Clark.
Need said the judge – Judge Andrew Guidi – recognizing the sensitive timing of this issue and it possible he may have a decision as early as tomorrow afternoon.