Fisheries Board Asks for Updated Habitat Protections

The Alaska Board of Fisheries has finalized a letter to the state legislature recommending that lawmakers clarify and strengthen the state’s Fish Habitat Permitting law in Title 16 of state statutes.

Title 16 sets the guidelines for permitting projects that could potentially damage or destroy salmon habitat, guidelines that have not been updated since statehood.

Commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use fishermen urged the board to take action, in the face of currently proposed development of non-renewable resources.

There is no current requirement for public input in permitting decisions that impact salmon habitat, and lacking that requirement of public notice, residents have no way of knowing what projects have applied for permits that could adversely impact salmon habitat.

Harvesters who fish commercially, for sport and for subsistence made their request to the Board of Fisheries in the fall of 2016 for the board to recommend that the Legislature update Title 16 to strengthen salmon protections. In mid-January, the board did so.

“In tough economic times, it’s more important now than ever to protect Alaska’s wild salmon,” said Lindsey Bloom, a veteran commercial fish harvester in Southeast Alaska who was one of the authors of the proposal. “The Board of Fisheries 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 Bloom, who grew up fishing Bristol Bay and also gillnets in Southeast Alaska.

“Alaska needs our legislators to safeguard our salmon culture and economy, or risk losing one of Alaska’s most iconic and valuable resources,” she said.

“Alaskans never could have imagined megaprojects like Pebble Mine when they drafted salmon protections into Title 16 more than six decades ago,” said Willow King a commercial harvester of salmon in Cook Inlet. “We need to update this law to protect the salmon runs that are so culturally and economically important to our state.”