Alaskan fisheries intercepting large numbers of North Coast salmon, says report
(Photo source: SkeenaWild Conservation Trust).
A new report shows a significant amount of salmon from B.C. river systems along the north coast is being captured by Alaskan fisheries.
The report was commissioned by the Terrace-based environmental group SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, as well as the Watershed Watch Salmon Society in Vancouver.
“What we knew was that they were intercepting significant numbers of our salmon, but we just didn't know to what degree,” said SkeenaWild Executive Director Greg Knox.
“This report shows that huge numbers – especially Skeena and Nass Salmon – are being intercepted in those fisheries.”
This comes after the federal government announced significant measures to protect Pacific salmon stocks last year: 60 per cent of commercial salmon fisheries in B.C. were closed and a $647 million dollar strategy to rebuild depleted stocks was announced.
“In 2021, Alaska harvested 470,000 Skeena Sockeye. They took about 30 per cent of the return to the Skeena in a year when our fishermen were tied up to the docks because of conservation concerns,” said Knox.
“In the Nass system, they harvested about 93,000 Nass Sockeye and our fishermen were also tied up.”
A total of almost 800,000 sockeye was caught by southeast Alaskan fisheries last year, most of which was of Canadian origin. These fisheries are also believed to have caught many Canadian-born Chinook, Chum, Coho and Pink salmon, as well as steelhead from the Skeena River.
“They don't have to manage for trying to conserve the fish that are ours. They only manage the fish that are going to their river systems. So it's a big problem.”
Much of these interception fisheries are in the Alaskan District 104 fishery, located off the coast of the Alaskan Panhandle and north of Haida Gwaii.
Knox says there’s a simple solution: moving those fleets to the inside waters so they can focus on harvesting Alaska-based salmon, which have healthier stocks.
“They're purely interception fisheries. There's no need for them out there. They can still harvest their own fish by moving their harvest further inland… 50-60 boats could move inside and it would greatly reduce the impacts on B.C. salmon.”
The report has caught the attention of Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach.
“We've always known that interception by the Alaskan fleet is an issue, and what this report really brings to the conversation is the magnitude of the issue,” he said.
“It's an issue that falls squarely on the desk of the federal Fisheries minister. I'm going to be calling on her to bring this issue forward to the Pacific Salmon Commission and make sure that the needs of BC's wild salmon are being addressed."
Knox says he wants to see both the federal and provincial governments take action. However, he claims that Alaska is “fully aware” of the impacts it’s having on B.C. salmon.
“They simply are going after the money. Our Sockeye and Chinook are worth a lot of money and they're trying to intercept them so that they make more money. That’s simple, and they don't seem to care.”