Thursday, January 13, 2022

SkeenaWild throws flag on the Alaska Intercept ... with Alaskans said to be scooping up huge volumes of Canada bound species

The A/B line between British Columbia and Alaska
marks a very different picture of fish harvesting as
outlined in a report from SkeenaWild this week
(Map from the report)

SkeenaWild the Northwest organization dedicated towards wild salmon issues has raised an alarm over events just a bit north of the A/B line, that through a report  released this week and posted to the SkeenaWild website that explores the harvest of Canadian bound salmon in waters along the Alaskan panhandle.

The report which was commissioned by the Watershed Watch Salmon  Society and SkeenaWild Conservation Trust takes note of the 2021 harvest by American fishermen of almost 800,000 sockeye salmon, most of which the report authors state were of Canadian origin. 

Also of concern for the British Columbia group the volume of other species intercepted in Alaskan waters,  many from threatened  and endangered fish populations.

While Canadian shore workers and Fishermen were finding
reduced or non existent work opportunities, just to the
North the Alaska Fishery was raging along in 2021 with large catches

The report also notes how much of that Alaskan harvest took place while Canadian boats and fishing plants sat idle through much of the summer, with Federal Fisheries officials having closed Canadian Commercial fisheries in response to declining stocks in recent year.

“We knew the Alaskans were intercepting a lot of B.C. salmon but the numbers in this report are staggering. I’m also appalled at their failure to report their bycatch of non-target species, which Canadian fishers are required to do.” -- Greg Knox of SkeenaWild.

A map of Alaskan Fishing Harvest districts
with District 104 not too far north of the A/B line
(Map from the report)

The report outlines how much of the interception of Canadian-bound salmon takes place in Alaska’s District 104, on the outer coast of the Alaska panhandle near Hydaburg, where local rivers do not support significant salmon populations. 

Nearly all the salmon and steelhead caught in District 104 are bound for streams in Canada, elsewhere in Southeast Alaska, or other US states such as Washington and Oregon.  

The document details the scope of that catch from District 104 as follows:

Total salmon catch in District 104 during 2021 was ~20,000 Chinook (power troll and seine combined), over 212,000 chum, ~130,000 coho, ~10.7 million pink, and ~495,000 sockeye. The proportion of Canadian salmon in the catch, and the certainty of the estimates, varies by species.

The synopsis of the report can be examined here, while those looking to dive deep into the data can access the full report here.

The report comes out as Canadian and American officials begin the process of review of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, though the renewal for the agreement does not come up until 2028, leading to calls for the Canadian and British Columbia governments to step up to raise the ongoing intercept of Canadian destined fish with American and Alaskan officials. 

“Alaskan fisheries are now the biggest harvesters of a growing number of depleted Canadian salmon populations ...  The Pacific Salmon Treaty has failed to protect our salmon and our fishers and we can’t wait until 2028 to fix it. The governments of Canada and B.C. need to stand up right now and do something about this Alaskan plunder.” -- Aaron Hill, executive director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

Some further background on the very different situations facing the fishery in British Columbia and Alaska can be reviewed from this preview piece from SkeenaWild to introduce the report.

The report should make for some additional reading for the newly installed Canadian Federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray, who already has a number of files of concern to British Columbians on her desk awaiting some comment towards.

Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach noted earlier this week, that the intercept of Canada bound fish was one of his discussion topics with American officials from his travels to Washington DC last fall.

Further notes on the North Coast, Haida Gwaii and Southeast Alaska fisheries can be found through our archive page.

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