Report and recommendation from Seattle Federal District Court by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michelle L. Peterson in case Case No. C20-417-RAJ-MLP. The report filed September 27, 2021, found National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by relying on undeveloped and uncertain future mitigation to authorize commercial salmon harvest at levels that NOAA admits are pushing federally protected Southern Resident orcas and wild Chinook closer to extinction.
The Magistrate Judge overwhelming agreed with Wild Fish Conservancy’s claims against NOAA, while denying motions from the State of Alaska and the Alaska Troller’s Association to dismiss parts of the case. Among the findings, the report found that NOAA violated section 7 of the ESA by improperly relying on uncertain mitigation measures that “lack specific and binding plans, lack specific deadlines or otherwise-enforceable obligations, and are not subject to agency control or otherwise reasonably certain to occur.”
The Court further found that NOAA violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by commencing massive new hatchery programs using federal tax dollars to offset commercial salmon harvests in Southeast Alaska without any public process or other procedures required by NEPA.