Alaska, Fishing, Maritime

Board of Fish asks Legislature to Update Salmon Protections

KODIAK, AK – The Alaska Board of Fisheries finalized a letter to the State Legislature Friday, recommending that lawmakers clarify and add to Alaska’s Fish Habitat Permitting law, Title 16. This comes after commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use fishermen joined together to highlight the need to update Alaska’s primary law to protect fish and game and ensure salmon sustainability.

“Wild salmon feed our families, create jobs, and sustain our unique way of life in Alaska,” said Willow King, who commercial fishes for salmon in Cook Inlet. “We commend the Board of Fish for doing its part to ensure salmon remains a strong part of Alaska’s heritage. Now our leaders in Juneau have a rare opportunity to unite salmon users of all types.”

Alaska’s Title 16 sets the guidelines for permitting projects that damage or destroy salmon habitat. These guidelines have not been updated since statehood and fail to address the scale of currently-proposed development or let Alaskans weigh in. There is no current requirement for public input in permitting decisions that impact salmon habitat. In fact, because there’s no requirement of public notice, residents have no way to know what projects have applied for permits that impact salmon waters.

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“Alaskans never could have imagined megaprojects like Pebble Mine when they drafted salmon protections into Title 16 more than six decades ago,” said King. “We need to update this law to protect the salmon runs that are so culturally and economically important to our state. Alaskans, tribes and local governments also need a voice in permitting decisions on projects that significantly impact salmon runs.”

In fall of 2016, a group of commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use fishermen requested the Board of Fisheries recommend that the Legislature update Title 16 to increase salmon protections. On Friday, the Board of Fisheries finalized its recommendation.

“In tough economic times, it’s more important now than ever to protect Alaska’s wild salmon. The Board of Fish deserves praise for listening to the voices of Alaskans and doing everything in its power to protect one of our state’s most valuable resources,” said Lindsey Bloom, a commercial fisher based in Southeast Alaska who also authored the proposal. “Alaska needs our legislators to safeguard our salmon culture and economy, or risk losing one of Alaska’s most iconic and valuable resources.”

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