Alaska must put ‘Fish First’

Over the past decade Alaskans have been working hard to protect the wild salmon of Alaska. We have protested, rallied, voted and organized for the fish. We have crossed boundaries of ethnicity, age, fishing type and diverse backgrounds to come together on this issue because for Alaskans, fish are a defining entity of our identity.

Since moving to Alaska six years ago, I have participated in the Cook Inlet Salmon fishery as a processor, a deckhand on a drift boat, a set netter and now a permit holder. In the off-season, I am a dog musher. My team of huskies and I carry the message of clean water and wild salmon down thousands of miles of trail across Alaska and beyond. For us and countless other Alaskans, the most important thing is that we set a strong standard to value our fisheries by not allowing any projects that could be potentially harmful to any salmon anywhere in Alaska.

To me, ‘Fish First’ means just that. The seafood industry takes top priority above all other resources or industries. Salmon are an important part of our quality of life in Alaska and provide food for our tables, recreation for our families, and contribute billions of dollars of economic activity. We as citizens and lawmakers of this state must leave no holes that could disrupt the delicately balanced habitats of the waterways and streams that sustain the birth of our precious fish resource. The only way this can be done is to adopt the principals from the Sustainable Salmon proposal and thereby strengthen Alaskan’s fish habitat permitting. The state is long overdue in updating its Title 16 Statute from a vague guideline to much more comprehensive and definitive rules for permitting that prioritize protecting salmon habitat.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries deserves praise for its recent action requesting that the Legislature update our law protecting salmon. Moreover, I am also extremely grateful for the Peninsula Clarion editorial supporting this work (Dec. 11, 2016). Yes! The updated regulations are worth the effort. If we don’t act today to ensure our laws our up-to-date, we stand to lose this sustainable and iconic resource. Now is the time for the Legislature to work with Alaskans to update the salmon provisions of Title 16, which haven’t been updated since statehood.

The sustainable salmon movement in Alaska is strong and we are so lucky to have so many brilliant and dedicated folks from across many sectors of the state to work on what they all consider to be top importance; protecting our wild salmon for future generations. This has truly been a grassroots effort; with roots propagated by the folks who head out every summer to the shores and waterways that sustain life. Let’s keep the momentum rolling and help persuade the legislature to adopt regulations that insure the protection of our wonderful resource, Wild Salmon! Here is how you can tell the legislature that you support Clean Water and Wild Salmon: