Saturday, August 8, 2009

Parnell's Yukon Fishery Disaster Petition - What Happens Next?

Late yesterday, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell petitioned U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to:

declare a fishery disaster under Section 312(a) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) for Yukon River Chinook salmon fisheries. MSA § 312(a) authorizes various forms of federal assistance through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) when the Secretaty of Commerce finds a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster. I ask that you make such a determination for Yukon River Chinook salmon fisheries and enable those affected by this significant resource disaster to access federal assistance. I understand that the Association of Village Council Presidents and Alaska Federation of Natives have made similar requests and I fully support their efforts in this regard.

Commerce Secretary Locke himself, when Governor of Washington State, made a similar request to President Bush's administration. Gov. Parnell's request follows upon the heels of the Alaska U.S. Congressional delegation's May 7th pre-fishing season request to Locke, and Sen. Mark Begich's June 22nd post-first Chinook surge request to Locke, both of which lacked the same import or impact as does a gubernatorial request.

Essentially, Sec. Locke has the power to order the National Marine Fisheries Service to force a closure of ALL fisheries that MAY have an impact upon Yukon River salmon returns. Parnell's letter further states:

The cause of this decline is undetermined and could include a variety of factors including ocean survival, disease, bycatch, or other unknown factors.

Other "unknown" factors could include sea temperature shifts, ocean acidification, climate change, and other impacts upon the Yukon River itself (warmer water, parasitic diseases, riverine pollution from mining and other activities, etc.). But the adverse impact of the Bering Sea trawl fishery bycatch IS known, and has been quantified, and most likely minimized.

The single person in Alaska government who can most quickly act to shut down the Bering Sea trawl fishery until that fishery's true impact is more fully understood is Sen. Mark Begich. He sits upon the Senatorial subcommittee that oversees the National Marine Fisheries Service and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. Friday afternoon, a senior member of Sen. Begich's staff assured me once again that "Sen. Begich is trying to help where he can."

Now is the time to assist Gov. Parnell, Sen. Begich, the Association of Village Council Presidents and others to gain a court order or other means to immediately and fully pull all the trawl gear out of the water in the Bering Sea.

image - poster from California in 2008, where a similar order halted all catch of salmon, whether it was accidental or intentional


Anonymous said...

Yes, Phil, Begich needs to step up to the plate here and support the new governor and all of the hurting villages. Palin's no longer standing in the way. Markie needs to eat his Wheaties and do the right thing.

Jim said...

We are not getting much help from Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program. Their Pollock fact sheet ( ) says:

"They are mostly fished using mid-water trawling gear which has relatively little impact on marine habitats and low accidental catch (bycatch) of other species."

They also say the fishery is certified as sustainable to the standard of the Marine Stewardship Council.

They rate Pollock as a "Best Choice."

Although Yukon Chinook bycatch has been severe in some years, you'd never even get the impression it was a problem at all in Aquarium's report. Misleading reports like this from "credible" organizations probably won't help persuade a judge to issue a court order to shut down the Bering Sea Pollock fishery.

Anonymous said...

The CDQ groups could tie up their pollock boats tomorrow without any emergency orders from the Feds.

Why don't they solve their own problems?

Could it be greed?

Philip Munger said...


Could a blog campaign that reasonably assails the seafood watch fact sheet program's credibility be worthwhile pursuing? Do they get funding from the fishery industries?

Jim said...

Phil: That would probably help. Something else that might help would be asking Monterey Bay Aquarium whether or not they think the Yukon Chinooks are getting hit hard by the Bearing Sea Pollock fishery. I don't see how they could claim this is inconsequential.

As far as thinking goes, the main thought I've had so far about this is, this report makes me mad. Especially because the public probably perceives it as credible.

alaskapi said...

Phil and Jim-
The simplest yet largest change which must occur is to address salmon bycatch in terms of salmon population as opposed to miniscule portion of overall pollack fishery it represents.

As long as we continue to deal with incidental catch the way we currently do we will not make headway on the legal language (in various places) to maintain fisheries in relation to each other... my not very humble opinion.

alaskapi said...

Anony@ 9AM-

ah- if only it was that simple...
Some CDQs do have an increasingly vested interest in their own trawlers, all have a vested interest in the pollack fishery
but this is NOT merely "their own problems".
The MSA could and would continue to instruct allowable fishing behavior and that includes the factory trawlers from elsewhere...