City of Homer files amicus brief in EEZ litigation

The City of Homer filed an amicus brief in the United Cook Inlet Drift Association v. National Marine Fisheries Services and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration litigation in support of UCIDA, stating the closure of the federally-regulated waters of Cook Inlet to commercial salmon fishing would have a negative impact on Homer.

An amicus brief is a legal document filed by a third party not involved in the case to offer information and insight to the issue at hand. The filing was announced during the Homer City Council committee of the whole on Monday.

“Our focus mainly looked at the impacts to Homer and the consequences of the adoption of what’s known as Amendment 14 to the FMP, the Fisheries Management Plan,” Homer attorney Michael Gatti said during the meeting Monday night. “… It is our position that Homer is impacted more seriously just because of its fishing culture with multi-generations and also the bulk of the drift gillnet fleet is harbored in the Homer Port and Harbor.”

In addition to the City of Homer, the Alaska Salmon Alliance and the cities of Kenai and Soldotna filed amicus briefs.

In November 2021, NOAA Fisheries issued a final rule in the Federal Register to implement Amendment 14 to the Fishery Management Plan for the salmon fisheries in the Exclusive Economic Zone, which closes commercial salmon fishing for the 2022 season in federal waters of the Upper Cook Inlet. The area affected is 3 nautical miles offshore of the Alaska coast, where the Cook Inlet drift gillnet fishery operates. Federal waters extend 3 nautical miles to 200 miles, the extend of the United States economic zone.

NOAA Fisheries stated the ruling was invoked to ensure the Salmon Fishery Management Plan is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which was passed in 1976 to sustain fisheries.

The amicus brief claims Homer would be one of the most heavily impacted communities since the city has the highest vessel participation and the largest number of participating permit holders. From 2009-2018, Homer’s vessel participation was an average of 104.9 vessels, with an average of 24.38% of total participants, and 197 unique vessels, according to the brief.

Additionally, Homer-based vessels receive the highest gross revenue from the fishery, having brought in an average annual revenue of $5.5 million, or 28.6% of total revenue, from 2009-2018.

The closure of the EEZ would further affect local businesses which rely on the commercial salmon drift gillnet fishery.

“Homer’s economic livelihood will be irreparably damaged through the loss of tax income, Port and Harbor fees, and it will eliminate jobs currently held by fishermen, seafood processors, truck drivers, ocean shipping companies, fuel distributors, fishing gear dealers, boat builders, mechanics, and all of the other small businesses that rely on the fishery for their livelihood,” the brief reads. “Homer will suffer greater social and economic impacts than any other fishing community. Homer has an important public interest in maintaining the livelihood and the way of life for Homer’s commercial fishermen and fishing-related industries.”

While Gatti requested limited discussion during the council meeting, Homer Mayor Ken Castner shared his approval of the amicus brief.

“I think (the brief) makes a pretty clear case as to why we are uniquely effected by this,” Homer Mayor Ken Castner said during the meeting.

Gatti expressed his hope that the court will accept the city’s motion to file and take into consideration the impacts closing the EEZ to commercial salmon fishing would have on the city.

According to the Feb. 10 Seawatch column, UCIDA president David Martin said in January that they have asked the court to rule by May 15, but it was more likely the court would have a decision by June 15.

To read the amicus brief, visit

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