Today, Fish Northwest, a nonprofit committed to the conservation and preservation of Puget Sound salmon stocks while restoring and expanding fishing opportunities for Washington’s anglers, filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Secretary of Commerce, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
State and tribal fisheries are set each year through the North of Falcon (NOF) season setting process. Neither the state nor the tribes can go fishing unless NMFS provides approval pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Approval is required any time fisheries are conducted in the presence of ESA listed stocks of fish, of which there are several in Puget Sound. For the past six years, NMFS has provided annual approval, for state and tribal fisheries, using the BIA to conduct a Section 7 consultation under the ESA. NMFS has made it clear that if there is no agreement between the state and the tribes then NMFS will allow the tribes to go fishing but not the state. Indeed, this is exactly what happened in 2016. As it stands, unless WDFW complies with the treaty tribes’ demands during NOF, the citizens of the state cannot go fishing. The consequences of this arrangement are as obvious as they are devastating to non-tribal fisheries and the conservation of ESA listed species.
Therefore, unless the parties remedy the annual ESA violations, including Section 7 consultations for state fisheries, Fish Northwest intends to seek preliminary and permanent injunctive relief including, but not limited to, enjoining the procedural and substantive ESA violations that occur annually through the North of Falcon process and the processes utilized and seasons conducted by NMFS, USFS, BIA, WDFW and the treaty tribes.
President, Fish Northwest