Juneau, AK – Commercial fishermen and others across Alaska are calling for a radical change in the management of Alaska’s fisheries. Today, fishermen delivered a letter signed by more than 300 Alaskan residents to Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy and his administration, urging the governor to address the crisis facing the Alaskan Chinook. advocating for a much lower bycatch allocation in federally managed offshore trawl fisheries. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) is meeting virtually and examining these issues this week.
“We are writing to you with an urgent request that your administration lead the North Pacific Fisheries Management Board to dramatically reduce salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries,” said the people of Alaska to the governor. âAlaskan chinook salmon are going through an unprecedented crisis. Drastic measures are being taken by small-scale commercial, subsistence and athletic fishermen across the state, including severe restrictions or closures to allow all possible chinook salmon to move up Alaska rivers to spawn. ”
âFishermen are calling on the Governor and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Board to chart a new course for fisheries management,â said Linda Behnken, a Sitka-based fisherman, executive director of the Longline Fishermen’s Association. of Alaska and formerly of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Board. member. âClimate change is shifting the landscape of Alaska’s fisheries from abundance to scarcity, and the Council has some tough decisions to make. Currently, the Council is optimizing the trawl harvest at the expense of Alaskan fish and fisheries. This must change. We need to protect fish habitat, reduce bycatch, and prioritize Alaska’s historic fisheries before it’s too late.
âAs fishermen, we understand the goal of prudent management; we rely on healthy oceans and sustainable fishing decisions. This is why it is so frustrating that trawlers are allowed to kill – as bycatch – high value species like salmon, halibut and crab. During this time, our fisheries are closed or reduced and the personal use and subsistence access of our neighbors is eliminated. It’s a blind spot for our management system. Something must change. said Sommers Cole, a gillnet fisherman in southeast Alaska and director of the Alaska Salmon Habitat Information Program (SHIP). âTrawlers are allowed to fish as if all of the fish populations they discard as bycatch are healthy, while the rest of the user groups in Alaska sacrifice significantly reduced access. or full closures to ensure long term durability. of these same actions. It is a bad deal for the Alaskans.
“It’s time to manage these ecosystems for more than one species – pollock – which has been the status quo,” said Alexus Kwachka, who fishes in Kodiak and Bristol Bay and has served on the NPFMC advisory committee. âOur goal here should be to return the Gulf and Bering Sea to their former levels of health and abundance. If trollers, gillnets, purse seiners, sport fishers and tribal citizens across Alaska are forced to go without fishing while trawlers keep their nets in the water, we have a serious problem. management and it is high time to right this ship.
The full text of the letter and the list of signatures are available here.