ADF&G Chinook Symposium Ignores Most Basic Problems
ANCHORAGE, AK -- Cook Inletkeeper raised serious questions about the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s efforts to address low Chinook salmon returns in Cook Inlet and around the state. The State recently held a Chinook Salmon Symposium to identify and discuss key knowledge gaps in salmon research and management, and asked stakeholders to submit comments by November 9.
The ADFG’s Chinook Salmon Symposium covered a variety of issues, but failed to address the loss and degradation of freshwater habitat as a factor in wild Alaska salmon run strength, productivity and overall population health. It also failed to address ADFG’s inability or unwillingness to enforce laws designed to protect salmon habitat.
“How can ADFG expect an honest discussion about the future of our salmon runs with little regard to in-stream habitat?,” asked Inletkeeper Bob Shavelson. “It’s like a farmer ignoring the soil when crop yields drop.”
Alaskans understand what’s at risk. They’ve connected the dots between loss of habitat and healthy salmon runs, and over 6,000 have signed a petition to protect wild Alaska salmon habitat.
"Alaska fisheries managers are ahead of the game historically, but if the State turns a blind eye to wild salmon habitat loss and degradation, Alaskan salmon will suffer the “death by a thousand cuts” that decimated once-proud salmon runs in Europe, New England, and California,” said Professor David Montgomery, author of King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon, who won a MacArthur genius fellowship in 2008. “Unless Alaska wants to repeat the sad history of fisheries management elsewhere, resource managers need to avoid the loss of habitat that has plagued wild salmon runs around the world.”
Cook Inletkeeper provided ADF&G with current and proposed examples highlighting wild salmon habitat degradation in the Cook Inlet watershed including:
- ADF&G issued illegal permits this August to allow Hilcorp to mine boulders and fill a salmon stream in the Redoubt Bay Critical Habitat Area, so industry could resume oil storage at the base of an active volcano.
- ADF&G has refused to act on gravel pit pollution dumping directly into King salmon habitat on Two Moose Creek, a tributary of the Anchor River on the Kenai Peninsula. Inletkeeper has provided ADFG with pictures, water quality data and other evidence to show ongoing violations, to no avail.
- ADF&G continues moving forward with the proposed Chuitna coal strip mine, which will set a dangerous precedent by removing 11 miles of salmon streams and irreversibly polluting the Chuitna River, known as the “Kenai of the West Side” and renowned for its King salmon runs.
- The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has made it a priority to authorize pollution “mixing zones” in salmon habitat; mixing zones embrace the long-discounted notion that dilution is the solution to pollution, and they have been rightly banned in Alaskan salmon habitat for years.
- The ADFG refuses to give Alaskans public notice and the opportunity to comment on “Title 16” permits, which authorize in-stream impacts to salmon habitat.
- The ADF&G rubber-stamped the ill-conceived 35 mile railroad connection to Port Mackenzie, which will dam surface and groundwater flows in salmon streams in the Mat Su Valley, where fishing closures and restrictions are increasingly the norm.
- The Alaska Division of Natural Resources (DNR) recently proposed new, extensive coal leases adjacent to the Little Susitna River, in a move that will fragment and pollute important Cook Inlet salmon habitat.
“ADF&G needs to regain the independence and integrity it once had” said Terry Jorgensen, a Cook Inlet commercial fisherman. “Habitat protection is not a partisan issue and it’s not an allocation issue. We can’t ignore the fish factory while we’re fighting over the last fish. And we certainly can’t blame the “black box” of our oceans when we refuse to protect the very freshwater habitats under our control.”