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Lawsuit Accuses Alaska of Unconstitutionally Mismanaging Salmon Fisheries

An attorney who successfully overturned a billion-dollar Alaska oil tax credit program is now targeting the state’s management of its salmon fisheries.

On Monday in Bethel, attorney Joe Geldhof argued that the state is managing those fisheries so poorly that it is violating the Alaska Constitution. Article VIII, Section 4 of the constitution says that fisheries should be managed “on the sustained yield principle,” and Geldhof — representing a Juneau man, Eric Forrer — argues that declining king and chum salmon returns in the Kuskokwim and Yukon rivers “illustrate a failure to adhere to the constitutional directive regarding sustained yield.”

An unprecedented collapse in those fisheries has resulted in orders banning traditional subsistence fishing along the river.

In a lawsuit filed last year against the state and the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Forrer asked a judge in Bethel to issue a ruling declaring that the state is unconstitutionally managing the Yukon and Kuskokwim salmon fisheries and for a “mutually agreeable consent decree” outlining an as-yet-unwritten new management system.

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