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Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

October 7, 2021
by Peggy Parker, 


Last August, the Federal Register published a short notice on reapportioning 1,350 Chinook salmon from the Gulf of Alaska pollock fishing fleet to the Gulf trawl fleet for groundfish, including bottomfish. The same month, state biologists monitoring rivers that flow into the Gulf noted historically low numbers in almost every area. Chinook salmon is not allowed to be taken commercially, for sport, and now even for subsistence in many more regions of the state than ever before.

That notice will be put into practice during the current North Pacific Fisheries Management Council meeting happening this and next week online.

Yesterday, fishermen delivered a letter signed by over 300 Alaskans to Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy and his administration, asking the governor to address the crisis facing Alaska’s Chinook salmon by advocating for a much lower bycatch allowance in the off-shore federally managed trawl fisheries.

“We are writing with an urgent request for your administration to lead the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to dramatically reduce salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska trawl fisheries” Alaskans told the governor.

“Alaska’s Chinook Salmon are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. Drastic measures are being taken by small boat commercial, subsistence and sport fishermen across the state, including severe restriction or closures in order to get every possible Chinook salmon up Alaska’s rivers to spawn.”

“Fishermen are asking the Governor and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to chart a new course for fisheries management,” said Linda Behnken, a Sitka-based fisherman, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, and a former North Pacific Fishery Management Council member.

“Climate change is shifting the context of Alaska‘s fisheries from abundance to scarcity, and the Council has tough decisions to make.

“Right now, the Council is optimizing trawl harvest at the expense of Alaska’s fish and fisheries. That needs to change,” Behnken said. “We need to protect fish habitat, reduce bycatch, and prioritize Alaska’s historic fisheries before it is too late.”

“As fishermen we understand the purpose of conservative management; we rely on healthy oceans and sustainable fisheries decisions,” noted Sommers Cole, a gill netter in southeast Alaska and Manager of the Salmon Habitat Information Program (SHIP).

“That’s why it’s so frustrating that trawlers are allowed to kill — as bycatch — high value species like salmon, halibut, and crab. Meanwhile our fisheries are being closed or curtailed and our neighbors’ personal use and subsistence access is being eliminated. This is a blind spot for our management system. Something has to change.

“Trawlers are allowed to fish as though all of the populations of fish they discard as bycatch are in good health, while the rest of Alaska’s user groups are making the sacrifice of significantly reduced access or complete closures in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of those same stocks. It’s a bad deal for Alaskans.”

“Alaska’s Chinook salmon are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis,” the letter pointed out.

“Drastic measures are being taken by small boat commercial, subsistence and sport fishermen across the state, including severe restriction or closures of fisheries across the state in order to get every possible Chinook salmon up Alaska’s rivers to spawn.  Most notably Cook Inlet fisheries have been closed to allow Kenai River kings to reach their spawning grounds.  Similar stories of restrictions and closures exist from the Stikine, Taku, Kuskokwim, and the Yukon,” the authors wrote.

Alexus Kwachka, who fishes out of Kodiak and Bristol Bay and has served on the Advisory Panel for the NPFMC, was among the 300 who signed the letter.

“It’s time to manage these ecosystems for more than just a single species — pollock — which has been the status quo,” he said.  “Our goal here should be getting the Gulf and Bering Sea back to their former levels of health and  abundance.  If trollers, gillnetters, seiners, sportfishers and tribal citizens throughout Alaska are being forced to go without fishing while trawlers keep their nets in the water we have a serious management problem and it is beyond time to right that ship.”

Letter to the Governor is below: 

Gov. Mike Dunleavy
Credit: Matt Buxton, The Midnight Sun 

Dear Governor Dunleavy:

We are writing with an urgent request for your administration to lead the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in revising the roll-over or reapportionment policy of Chinook bycatch between trawl sectors. The Council recently took action allowing the National Marine Fisheries Service to reapportion the 1,350 Chinook salmon prohibited species catch limit, from the vessels participating in directed fishing for pollock in the Central Regulatory Area of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) to nonRockfish Program catcher vessel sector participating in directed fishing for groundfish, other than pollock, in the Western and Central Regulatory Areas of the GOA.

This is yet another hit on Alaska’s Chinook salmon populations which are already in crisis.  Chinook are in trouble from Southeast Alaska to the Bering Sea.  The 1,300 Chinook not yet killed as bycatch in the trawl fisheries should be left in the ocean while the Council considers long-term bycatch reductions and the bycatch roll over policy should be reversed by Emergency Rule while the Council initiates the process to revise this policy for the long-term.

Alaska’s Chinook Salmon are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis.  Drastic measures are being taken by small boat commercial, subsistence and sport fishermen across the state, including severe restriction or closures of fisheries across the state in order to get every possible Chinook salmon up Alaska’s rivers to spawn.  Most notably Cook Inlet fisheries have been closed to allow Kenai River kings to reach their spawning grounds.  Similar stories of restrictions and closures exist from the Stikine, Taku, Kuskokwim, and the Yukon.

Alaskans are making huge sacrifices to protect Chinook; the federal government via the NPFMC  needs to do the same. Chinook bycatch being rolled over to another trawl sector to kill and discard is unconscionable when many Alaskans are foregoing subsistence, sport and commercial harvest. During this time of crisis, minimizing Chinook bycatch must take priority over optimizing trawl harvest.  Along with stopping this roll over more generally we are asking your administration to urge the Council to revisit the Chinook salmon bycatch limits and further reduce bycatch to support conservation and management of these critical stock.


Scott Adams Homer, AK Michele Laduke Ketchikan, AK
Chelsea Anderson Wasilla, AK Kathy Lenniger Fairbanks, AK
Dan Anderson Valdez, AK Dustin Logan Palmer, AK
James Apone Anchorage, AK Israel Logan Anchorage, AK
Helen Arnold North Pole, AK Angela Lopuhovsky Anchorage, AK
Jacob Askren Anchorage, AK Lindsey Lorgen-Jones Petersburg, AK
Elaine Atkinson Metlakatla, AK Peter Lyford Wasilla, AK
Robert Bailey Anchorage, AK Cherime Macfarlane Wasilla, AK
Kent Barkhau Sitka, AK Jason Malemute Koyukuk, AK
Carol Barnhill Anchorage, AK Stacie Mallette Kenai, AK
Heather Bauscher Sitka, AK Guyan Mandich Fairbanks, AK
Ann Bayes Anchor Point, AK Russel Mangels Anchorage, AK
David Bayes Homer, AK Christine Maning Wrangell, AK
Jeff Beal Palmer, AK Claudia Markham Fairbanks, AK
Crystal Beeman Homer, AK Bruce Markwood Anchorage, AK
Daniel Berg Ketchikan, AK Caleb Martin Anchorage, AK
Carl Berlin Kasigluk, AK Marta Martinsen Sitka, AK
Keith Billi Petersburg, AK Bridget Maryott Homer, AK
Charles Bingham Sitka, AK Mike Mccoy Wasilla, AK
Ryan Bish Eagle River, AK David Mcfadden Anchorage, AK
Sheridan Bishop Iv Anchor Point, AK Lillian Mcghee Ketchikan, AK
Arthur Bloom Juneau, AK Ryan Mcglohn Anchorage, AK
Loretta Bly Homer, AK Tammy Meachem Juneau, AK
Jason Bontrager Anchorage, AK Bill Menish Petersburg, AK
Chris Bosch Wasilla, AK Vicki Meyers Willow, AK
Blake Bousley Ketchikan, AK Kenley Michaud Anchorage, AK
Rob Boyer Anchorage, AK Josh Miles Wasilla, AK
Will Brain Wasilla, AK Dustin Millar Eagle River, AK
David Branshaw Cordova, AK William Miller Homer, AK
Philip Brna Anchorage, AK Chris Mitchell Homer, AK
Daniel Brown Juneau, AK Kyle Moffat Wasilla, AK
Melanie Brown Juneau, AK Peter Mooney Port Alexander, AK
Robert Brown Jber, AK Ryan Moore Anchorage, AK
Richard Bucy Kenai, AK Jacob Moret Wasilla, AK
Mike Bugni Valdez, AK Phyllis Mulligan Sitka, AK
Fredrika Bunger Anchorage, AK Rudy Multz Homer, AK
Rodney Burba Jr Ketchikan, AK Connor Murphy Kodiak, AK
Jordyn Caldwell Palmer, AK Lori Murray Homer, AK
Michelle Canfield Willow, AK Raymond Nations Wasilla, AK
Arilee Carlson Craig, AK Chris Nealey DDutch, AK
Samuel Carroll Big Lake, AK Marvin Nelson Port Lions, AK
Kenneth Carter Willow, AK Sandracha Ching Nessett Craig, AK
Richard Catrett Juneau, AK Mark Newman Eagle River, AK
Caroline Ceffalio Kasilof, AK Martin Nicolai Kwethluk, AK
Yunghsing Chang Fairbanks, AK Daniel Norman Kenai, AK
Tammy Chisum Dutch Harbor, AK Steve Northcutt Chugiak, AK
Erik Christoffers Kenai, AK Dennis Northrup Ward Cove, AK
Cathryn Coats Ketchikan, AK Chris O’Fallon Chugiak, AK
Sandra Coats Ketchikan, AK Maura O’brien Phillips Petersburg, AK
Della Coburn Anchorage, AK Rick Oldham Homer, AK
Clint Cole Ketchikan, AK Eric Osborne Nome, AK
Matt Cole Douglas, AK Landon Page Anchorage, AK
Sommers Cole Juneau, AK Edgardo Paredes Anchorage, AK
Margaret Craig Homer, AK Wyatt Patten Craig, AK
Tyler Cropley Sitka, AK Dan Pauk Manokotak, AK
Jon Curtis Soldotna, AK Eugene Perkins Ketchikan, AK
Michael Dalton Anchor Point, AK Jim Perry Anchorage, AK
A Michael Daniels Anchorage, AK Micah Peter Palmer, AK
Karri Davidson Soldotna, AK Matthew Peters Sitka, AK
Terry De Geus Wasilla, AK Helen Peterson Saint Marys, AK
Karl Demmert Craig, AK Dollynda Phelps Kenai, AK
Judy Dennis Anchorage, AK Jeffery Phelps Kenai, AK
Laurenc Devita Homer, AK Jeffrey Philemonoff Anchorage, AK
Lauren Divine Anchorage, AK Karli Phillips Juneau, AK
Justin Dong Kodiak, AK Mike Pilling Juneau, AK
Howard Driskell Anchorage, AK Arseny Polushkin Homer, AK
Vicki Duggin Kenai, AK Steve Potter Fairbanks, AK
Michael Dunn Sitka, AK Lance Preston Sitka, AK
Reiker Durtschi Girdwood, AK Janetta Pritchard Wasilla, AK
Eric Eckard Wasilla, AK Ken Quigley Craig, AK
William Egolf Haines, AK Linda Rabideau Anchorage, AK
Jorgen Eliason Sitka, AK Earl Ramsey Anchorage, AK
Honalee Elkan Juneau, AK James Refuerzo Juneau, AK
Nathan Elswick Anvik, AK Roger Register Anchorage, AK
James Erickson Hoonah, AK Marty Remund Port Alexander, AK
Jay Erickson Hoonah, AK Raymond Renner Cordova, AK
Robert Erickson Juneau, AK Justin Reno Thorne Bay, AK
Brent Erwin Soldotna, AK Damion Ripley Ketchikan, AK
Jill Evans Haines, AK Tracy Rivera Tenakee Springs, AK
Ely Evanson Anchorage, AK Lynelle Roberts Wasilla, AK
Angela Ferrari Anchorage, AK Eden Romeo Anchorage, AK
Mike Ferris Kodiak, AK Katie Rooks Craig, AK
Elizabeth Figus Juneau, AK Derek Ruckel Girdwood, AK
Thomas Finger Kenai, AK Eryn Ruppert Ketchikan, AK
Brannon Finney Petersburg, AK Danny Saeyang Seward, AK
Jaylene Fitka Marshall, AK Daniel Sam Tanana, AK
Michael Foster Palmer, AK Sandra Sanders Ketchikan, AK
Constance Fredenberg Palmer, AK Jed Sapp Cordova, AK
Amy Fredette Kodiak, AK Bruce Savo Dillingham, AK
Shannon Gackstetter Fairbanks, AK Jeffrey Schauermann Wasilla, AK
Michael Garhart Wasilla, AK Michael Schoder Anchorage, AK
George Garner Anchorage, AK Mike Schoessler Soldotna, AK
Samuel George Akiachak, AK Jessie Schoonover Juneau, AK
Sara Gering Juneau, AK Dena Selby Haines, AK
John Goulet Chugiak, AK Tim Sharp Anchorage, AK
Josephus Govaars Ketchikan, AK Gilda Shellikoff Anchorage, AK
Ken Green Cooper Landing, AK Anthony Sheppard Mountain Village, AK
Duane Hahn Kenai, AK Brittney Shill Ketchikan, AK
Keith Harmon North Pole, AK Rachel Shoemake Anchorage, AK
Ana Harrington Anchorage, AK Lynn Sieck Soldotna, AK
Stephen Harrison Valdez, AK Gloria Simeon Bethel, AK
Mike And Nancy Harsh Eagle River, AK Sandra Simons Seward, AK
Lilian Hart Juneau, AK Clayton Smith Homer, AK
Mike Hemminger Ketchikan, AK Mackenzie Smith Cordova, AK
Michael Hicks Soldotna, AK Rebekah Smith Anchorage, AK
John Hinchman Hoonah, AK Travis Snyder Anchorage, AK
Denis Hippert Sterling, AK Dan Spies Soldotna, AK
Ruth Hlavnicka Hoonah, AK Brian Stanley Wasilla, AK
Thomas Hlavnicka Hoonah, AK Vicky Sterling Anchorage, AK
Thomas Hlavnicka Hoonah, AK Morgan Stonecipher Juneau, AK
Karl Holfeld Anchorage, AK Benjamin Storey Juneau, AK
Vince Holton Anderson, AK Stephanie Stout Big Lake, AK
Christa Hoover Cordova, AK Edith Suvlu Barrow, AK
Susan Hoyt Ketchikan, AK Adam Swanson Petersburg, AK
Kyle Hunter Kenai, AK Jim Swanson Wasilla, AK
Kristine Hutchin Eagle River, AK Kimberly Takak Elim, AK
Cory Ioos Homer, AK Andrew Taylor Eagle River, AK
Jennifer Ireland Ketchikan, AK Susan Taylor Port Alexander, AK
Lisa Gonzales Ives Girdwood, AK Drew Terhaar Sitka, AK
Tara Jacobsen Hoonah, AK Elizabeth Thompson Petersburg, AK
Jesse James Soldotna, AK Arthur Thorness North Pole, AK
Doug Jenny Sitka, AK Roxanne Thurman Nome, AK
Diane Jewkes North Pole, AK Sandra Tompkins Chugiak, AK
Amanda Johnson Anchorage, AK Ruby Touya Homer, AK
Charice Johnson Unalakleet, AK Chris Tran Anchorage, AK
David Johnson Sitka, AK Margaret Ungrodt North Pole, AK
Erik Johnson Chugiak, AK Erik Velsko Homer, AK
William Jones Anchor Point, AK Corey Verdoljak Homer, AK
Amahra Kalush Soldotna, AK Misty Wagers Wasilla, AK
Steven Kashevarof Chiniak, AK Rhonda Ward Douglas, AK
Carol Kasza Fairbanks, AK Rosemary Watabe Fairbanks, AK
Nancy Keen Haines, AK David Wayne Palmer, AK
Corey Kettering Palmer, AK Irma Whitehawk Palmer, AK
Steven King Girdwood, AK Josh Wickboldt Homer, AK
Ben Kirchenschlager Cordova, AK Erin Willahan Anchorage, AK
Dusten Kirker Kenai, AK Rhonda Williams Fairbanks, AK
Erik Kokborg Cordova, AK Saldie Wilson Haines, AK
Lauren Kregel Juneau, AK Adam Wuertz Anchorage, AK
Kellie Kvasnikoff Ninilchik, AK Kenneth Yockey Chugiak, AK
Tracy Labarge Juneau, AK Shannon Zanone Homer, AK