ANCHORAGE (CN) - Six native Alaskan villages whose members engage in "subsistence and cultural hunting of sea otter" say the federal government is denying them a voice in how sea otter are managed under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Alaska Sea Lion Otter and Steller Sea Lion Commission and the six villages accuse the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of breach of trust.
Since 1998, the Commission and six other representatives of native villages have balanced federal protections for endangered sea otters with native Alaskans' reliance on the species for subsistence and cultural preservation.
The Commission, which represents 50 federally recognized tribes, says it can no longer co-manage the defendant Fish and Wildlife Service's mission, because it's been excluded by the FWS' independent adoption of new, "unproven" policies that should require "unanimity among tribal organizations" as a condition of funding.
The plaintiffs say the Fish and Wildlife Service has undermined a longstanding "government-to-government" relationship, violating tribal sovereignty. They say the feds' unilateral actions will hurt native Alaskans.
They want the feds enjoined "from creating, fostering, or sponsoring new organizations for the co-management of marine mammals," ordered to consult tribal governments or their representatives before "taking action that will have a negative effect on the governmental authority of Tribes over subsistence use of marine mammals by its members," plus costs and damages.
They are represented in Federal Court by Samuel Fortier with Fortier and Mikko.