Doug Vincent-Lang is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.( (Courtesy Photo)

Opinion: Special interest hit piece unfairly targets Southeast fisheries

I was disappointed by what I consider to be a targeted attack on Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries.

  • Friday, January 14, 2022 12:00pm
  • Opinion

By Doug Vincent-Lang

A report on interceptions of British Columbia salmon in Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries was publicly released on Tuesday by Canadian environmental groups.

Many Pacific salmon stocks are highly migratory and often travel across state and international borders. Several stocks migrate into Alaska’s waters to take advantage of the rich marine environment in coastal Southeast Alaska and the Gulf of Alaska where they feed and grow before starting their journey back to their natal streams to spawn. Our quality habitat allows these salmon to thrive and return healthy to their natal streams to renew their life cycle.

On their return voyage, these highly migratory salmon are subject to a multitude of fisheries which are managed under the auspices of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. The Pacific Salmon Treaty is a conservation-based international agreement between the United States and Canada to carry out their salmon fisheries and enhancement programs so as to “prevent over-fishing and provide for optimum production of salmon resources and to ensure that both countries receive benefits equal to the production of salmon originating in their waters”.

It is common knowledge that Alaska harvests salmon that originate from rivers outside the state just as British Columbia harvests salmon that originate in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. This is precisely why there is a Treaty in place.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game manages Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries consistent with the Pacific Salmon Treaty, Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and State of Alaska policies and regulations such as the State’s precautionary Policy for the Management of Sustainable Salmon Fisheries. The ADF&G carefully monitors catches and escapements inseason to make sure fisheries are in compliance with all of these policies including the terms of the Pacific Salmon Treaty and managed to sustain salmon populations into the future.

Southeast Alaska has the most robust and comprehensive stock and fishery assessment program on the Pacific seaboard. This includes high fishery sampling rates, scientifically defensible escapement monitoring programs, and juvenile salmon wild tagging programs. The latter is rare on the Pacific coast and the data provide rare and valuable insights into freshwater and marine survival as well as greater precision on where and when stocks are caught. And these data are publicly available with most of it available in real-time.

I was disappointed by what I consider to be a targeted attack on Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries by these special interest groups. I take our obligations to fulfill treaty commitments seriously. Moreover, I find the timing of the release of this report to be suspect as it coincides with on-going Pacific Salmon Treaty meetings. The summary comments were subjective and one-sided and appear to be designed to derail Pacific Salmon Treaty talks.

• Doug Vincent-Lang is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

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