The federal agency begins a year-long review of whether to list Alaskan king salmon as an endangered species

A federal fisheries agency on Thursday launched a 12-month review to determine whether Alaskan king salmon should be listed as an endangered or threatened species.

The National Marine Fisheries Service will study king salmon numbers in the Gulf of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and Southeast Alaska before considering stricter protections for the prized fish. These protections may include reducing commercial fishing for king salmon, along with sport and subsistence fishing. Mining and logging in critical king salmon habitats may also be affected.

Fishing legal experts warned it will likely be at least two years before any new Alaska king salmon restrictions are implemented. There may also be a lawsuit.

Attorney Anna Crary, a partner at Anchorage law firm Landye Bennett Blumstein, said the threshold is relatively low to start a 12-month federal endangered species review. She said there may be a tendency for stakeholders to panic, but the next phase of the determination process is in-depth, highly administrative and takes into account data submitted by the state and other organizations.

However, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Douglas Vincent-Lang said Thursday that it was surprising that an endangered species review was moving forward for the Alaskan king, or chinook, salmon.

The petition was clearly drafted by people with little knowledge of Alaska and Alaskan salmon stocks, he said in a prepared statement. It was riddled with significant factual errors, did not contain important data that is widely available, and did not accurately describe the status of Chinook salmon in Alaska.

Under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, an endangered species designation means that the Alaskan king salmon is considered endangered. A threatened species designation means that fish are likely to be endangered within the foreseeable future.

The federal review began when the Wild Fish Conservancy filed a 67-page petition in January arguing that Alaskan king salmon are in danger of extinction. The Washington state-based conservation group cited data that a decline in king salmon numbers was largely due to overfishing, climate change and wild salmon competing for food with farmed fish, among other causes.

The fisheries service, in its 14-page finding Thursday, said the review was warranted because of data presented about the decline in size of Alaskan mature king salmon, and missed escapement targets for a number reserves.

I’m not surprised that the agency is taking advantage of those two things, Crary said. Because the missed escape goals have been significant. They have increased in severity over time, with a few exceptions.

The size of the mature fish is decreasing, just beyond the board, she added. Basic and readily available scientific data confirm this, thus suggesting that there is a problem.

Escapement goals refer to the target number of king salmon that state managers want to return to a river to spawn to keep the species viable in the future.

In March, the Alaska Board of Fisheries classified king salmon in the Kenai River as a state of concern, which led to management plan changes to help king salmon recover. Vincent-Lang said despite the closure of the Kenai River to sport fishing for king salmon, thousands of fish are still returning to spawn.

Just because they didn’t provide maximum sustainable yield doesn’t mean the reserves are in danger of disappearing, he said in an interview.

The fisheries service did not accept all of the Wild Fish Conservancy’s claims without criticism. The agency stated that the groups’ petition contained numerous factual errors, omissions, incomplete references, and unsupported assertions and conclusions. Some king salmon populations have shown improvements in recent years, and the group made vague references to the impacts of mining, logging and overfishing, the federal agency said.

A spokesman for the Wild Fish Conservancy did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily News.

Crary said the state and other entities are likely to exploit weaknesses or inaccuracies in the petition identified by the fisheries service when drafting their submissions for review. Vincent-Lang said the state is open to being involved in the next steps of the review process.

They were the primary salmon manager in the state of Alaska, he said. And it seems kind of ridiculous for a federal agency to step in and say: Now it’s up to the experts to decide whether these species are endangered without some level of state involvement.

The federal fisheries service is now seeking the best scientific and commercial data available from the public, state agencies, industry stakeholders and other organizations to help officials make a determination about the status of Alaskan king salmon. Public comments must be received within 60 days of Friday.

#federal #agency #begins #yearlong #review #list #Alaskan #king #salmon #endangered #species
Image Source :

Leave a Comment