In partnership with three other conservation organizations, Watershed Watch Salmon Society have written Alaskan Governor Mike Dunleavy, asking him to stop Alaska’s harvest of B.C. wild salmon.
Our decision to write to the governor grew from a recent report which revealed that Southeast Alaskan commercial fisheries are catching huge numbers of salmon bound for B.C. rivers.
While commercial fishing was nearly non-existent in B.C. last summer, Alaskan fleets just across the border logged over 3,000 boat-days and harvested over 650,000 Canadian-origin sockeye. In comparison, only 110,000 sockeye were commercially harvested in all of B.C.
According to the report, Alaska provides little or no information on how many Canadian-origin chum, pink, and steelhead that co-migrate with Canadian sockeye are caught in Southeast Alaska each year, but the number is likely in the millions.
“B.C. wild salmon have hit record lows over the past few years,” says Greg Taylor, fisheries advisor to Watershed Watch Salmon Society and SkeenaWild Conservation Trust. “While we’re closing many commercial, recreational and Indigenous fisheries to give salmon a chance to recover, Alaskans are catching those very same fish before they make it home to spawn.”
Greg Taylor also points out that to protect B.C. wild salmon swimming through Alaskan water, Alaskan’s don’t need to stop fishing. They simply need to shift their harvest efforts to inside waters where the majority of the Southeast Alaska seine fleet already fishes and where they can target Alaskan salmon populations.
Other concrete actions we identified to solve this problem include:
closing the District 104 net fishery (which intercepts large numbers of B.C.-bound salmon) and moving those vessels to inside waters where they will target Alaska-origin stocks;
reducing harvest rates in other Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries to avoid overfishing of Canadian-origin stocks;
implementing catch reporting for all target and non-target species as is required in Canadian commercial salmon fisheries; and
requiring fishers to release bycatch species back to the water immediately, with the “least possible harm,” and implement sorting practices that enable live release, consistent with the same condition of licences in B.C. fisheries.
We hope to meet with the governor, or a designated representative from his office to discuss their concerns and proposed solutions.
We sent out a media release and have garnered some widely published stories on this issue.
Groups urge Alaska to protect B.C.-bound salmon, criticize treaty, by Canadian Press, CBC News, March 22, 2022
‘Stop the bleeding’: B.C. groups call on Alaska to halt interception of Canadian salmon, Stefan Labbé, Times Colonist, March 22, 2022