Hoopa Valley Tribe warns of lawsuit over
salmon fishing rules
focus on Klamath and Rogue fishery
by Will Houston, Eureka Times Standard July 19, 2018
The Hoopa Valley Tribe notified federal agencies Wednesday of
its intent to file a lawsuit claiming the agencies failed to
follow their own protocols that are meant to protect Endangered
Species Act-listed coho salmon when they approved this year’s
salmon fishing regulations.
“Whether it’s in the ocean or in the river, we’re going to hold
the federal agencies accountable,” Hoopa Valley Fisheries
Director Mike Orcutt said Wednesday. “If it’s affecting these
species that are [on] the brink of being extirpated, then we’re
concerned about it and I think you need to reconsult, you need
to have dialogue directly with the tribe so we understand the
overall effects that it’s going to have on the fish that we’re
The tribe claims the Pacific Fishery Management Council — which
makes recommendations to federal agencies on West Coast fishing
rules and catch limits — deviated from historical precedent this
year in how it calculates the amount of salmon that are allowed
to be harvested and also how that harvest affects species listed
under the Endangered Species Act, specifically coho salmon from
the Rogue and Klamath rivers.
While coho salmon are a protected species under the act, the
federal government allows a certain amount of them to be killed
The Hoopa Valley Tribe’s attorney Thomas Schlosser told the
Times-Standard that a 1999 biological opinion by the National
Marine Fisheries Service allows for only 13 percent of returning
coho salmon from the Klamath and Rogue rivers to be killed,
which includes deaths caused by fish harvesting.
Back in March, the Pacific Fishery Management Council released a
preseason report that determined its proposed fishing
regulations would cause up to 12.9 percent of coho salmon would
be killed if it allowed up to 9 percent of returning Chinook
salmon to be harvested.
The tribe claims in its notice that after seeing these numbers,
the council’s salmon technical team made a “sudden change” to
its calculation methods. This produced more favorable numbers in
an April report, with the number of Chinook salmon being
harvested increasing to 11 percent and the number of coho salmon
being killed dropping to only 5.5 percent.
The tribe argues that had the council used its original
calculation method and allowed for 11 percent of Chinook salmon
to be harvested, the number of coho salmon that would killed
would be “in excess” of what’s allowed.
But the alleged violation of the Endangered Species Act is not
in the numbers themselves, but rather because the agencies
didn’t follow protocol when it decided to alter its calculation
Schlosser said the 1999 biological opinion requires the National
Marine Fisheries Service and Pacific Fishery Management Council
to consult with one another if new information is made available
about the potential impacts to these listed coho salmon.
Schlosser said the council’s salmon technical team might have
been right to change the calculation method, but because it was
new information, it required reconsultation under the protocol
the National Marine Fisheries Services and the council operates
The tribe is calling on the National Marine Fisheries Service,
the U.S. Department of Commerce and the council to rescind the
approval of these fishing limits and instead adopt catch limits
using the same methods used in the past — which would mean a
lower harvest than is already allowed.
Salmon fishing in local ocean water began in May. The National
Marine Fisheries Service and Department of Commerce declined to
Contacted by the Times-Standard on Wednesday, Pacific Fishery
Management Council Executive Director Chuck Tracy said it was
the first he had heard about the tribe’s intent to file
Tracy said the council itself technically cannot be sued because
it is managed under the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Schlosser said this might be “wishful thinking” on Tracy’s part.
Tracy and other council staff did not provide further comment
regarding the tribe’s claims.
The Endangered Species Act requires a 60-day notice to be given
to an agency accused of violating the Endangered Species Act
before a lawsuit can be filed.
Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.
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