Washington state-based NGO Wild Fish Conservancy has filed a petition to list Alaska king salmon under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The move came after a US judge dismissed the nonprofit's legal action to close down Alaska's southeast king salmon troll fishery last year.

Wild Fish Conservancy said the protection is needed for "imperiled" king salmon populations from the Canadian border north to the Aleutian Islands, including watersheds of southeast, Cook Inlet, and southcentral Alaska.

In a 67-page petition filed Jan. 11, the group said overharvest of Alaskan king, also called chinook, salmon in commercial fisheries has been a concern in various regions of Alaska at different times.

It added the issue is "exacerbated by the bycatch, or the capture of non-target species, in commercial fishing gear."

The nonprofit said when a species is listed under the Endangered Species Act a recovery planning process is undertaken to evaluate the most pressing conservation needs to ensure the survival of the species.

"Examples include, but are not limited to, designating critical habitat protections, expanding or enacting marine protection along the migratory corridor and nursery rearing environment chinook need in the ocean, management actions to transition away from mixed-stock ocean fisheries that harvest at-risk and immature chinook salmon, and protection efforts that allow fish to adapt to a changing climate," it said.

The petition sets a dangerous precedent for using the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a tool to deal with a stock that faces "low productivity," Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lange, told IntraFish last year.

King salmon have been returning in fewer numbers to many rivers across Alaska since 2007, requiring painful restrictions on fisheries that harvest these stocks, according to ADF&G.

"In no way are the status of the stocks jeopardized or threatened with extinction," Vincent-Lange said.

"There is a big difference between not having enough surplus fish to support a directed fishery and a stock being threatened with extinction. ADF&G's foremost salmon management priority is to provide for the long-term health and sustainability of the state’s stocks."

The ESA was created to conserve endangered and threatened species and the ecosystems on which they depend. The petition process to list a species under the act can take over a year, with an initial 90-day review once it is submitted. From there, the petition will undergo another year of review before it can be published in the US Federal Register, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

"To the maximum extent practicable, NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) must issue a finding on whether listing Alaskan chinook may be warranted within 90 days of the petition being filed," Wild Fish Conservancy said.