Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


December 23, 1998 - The Attorney General's Office has filed a petition with the U. S. Supreme Court appealing a Ninth Circuit ruling that awarded shellfish harvesting rights to Washington Indian Tribes.

The state petition questions whether the tribes have rights to an allocation of 50 percent of deepwater shellfish, such as crabs, sea urchins, and geoducks, since those shellfish were rarely used by Indians at treaty time. The state's petition also focuses on the issue of whether tribes can harvest shellfish from staked and cultivated beds as the treaty language says they cannot.

The case originally was filed by the tribes in 1989 as a subproceeding in United States v. Washington, (also known as the Boldt Decision), which is the umbrella case for all tribal fishing claims. In December 1994, U. S. District Court Judge Edward Rafeedie ruled that Indian Tribes in Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula have treaty rights to take, with some limits, shellfish on certain private tidelands, and have rights to half of all deep water shellfish.

The court's ruling was appealed to the Ninth Circuit by the state, tribes and several private shellfish growers and property owners. In September 1998, the Ninth Circuit issued a final order that affirmed Judge Rafeedie's rulings.

The "Petition for Certiorari," (the formal process for seeking Supreme Court review) was mailed December 22. The Puget Sound Shellfish Growers and private landowners are also filing petitions with the court.

Plaintiff Indian Tribes and the United States have 30 days to file a response to the state's petition. A decision by the court on whether they will hear the appeal is not expected until April.


Petition For A Writ Of Certiorari