Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)

Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)

Point of View: Is management of Cook Inlet catered to special interest groups?

If these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has announced that they are closing the Cook Inlet EEZ to commercial fishing for the 2022 season. This same body of water is undergoing the process of being leased out (sale 258) for oil and gas exploration and development by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

I am all for the conservation of wild salmon stocks, and if NOAA has conducted their research and believes that the salmon runs migrating through there are in jeopardy, then I support this closure. What I cannot support, or understand, is if these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

In the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) recently published by BOEM, they note several negative effects to migrating fish in the production area. Noise impacts from seismic surveys, drilling, platform and pipeline installation, and vessel traffic will affect fish’s ability to swim, feed, avoid predation, and communicate. Fish rely on their perception of sound and pressure to perform these basic functions. Death, and physical damage — likely leading to predation and death — can occur if they’re unable to escape intense noises.

There will also be effects to the prey that salmon feed on, such as zooplankton — notably larval fish and crustaceans. They get caught up and trapped in water intake structures containing warmer water and chemicals that will kill or shock these important creatures of the salmon diet. Discharge of drilling fluids and cuttings will also affect these prey organisms through chemical toxicity, as well as clogging their gills and digestive tracts.

Conveniently enough for the constituents of this lease, the drift fleet will no longer be in their way, at least for this upcoming season. Even so, BOEM does address effects on commercial fishermen in their EIS. The answer they have provided to many of the issues listed above is that the salmon will simply “swim away.” However, changes to the migration patterns these fish have followed for centuries directly affects our commercial fishermen. BOEM is not oblivious to this, and states that oil and gas production activities will disperse and displace targeted fish species, affecting catch rates of fishermen. They also note space-use conflicts, such as fishermen losing access to part of their fishing grounds to maintain a distance from the platforms. Fishing near their operation also puts the fisherman’s gear at risk of entanglement with their equipment. If the Cook Inlet EEZ ever opens back up again, our fishermen will be excluded from areas they’ve thrived off of for decades.

The question arises then, why is NOAA’s solution to the EEZ fishery issue to push aside our local drift fleet, while turning a blind eye to the upcoming adverse effects lease sale 258 will have on this at-risk fishery? Is NOAA’s true goal conservation? If so, they need to take a stand against BOEM and the agencies driving this lease forward. The decisions these federal organizations make affects all of us on the local level. Proper management of Cook Inlet and the many natural resources it provides us is critical to the livelihood of the small communities that depend on it. If the agencies charged with overseeing it are corrupt and working together towards some unknown agenda, where does that leave the rest of us? These two opposing management plans can only come together to benefit one special interest group, and that is the wealthy corporations who will be purchasing this lease.

Cook Inlet needs a chance to rehabilitate so our fishermen can get back to what they do. Stand for our salmon, coastal communities and commercial fishermen by opposing lease sale 258.

Cristen San Roman is a 23-year-old filleter and lifelong Alaskan.

More in Opinion

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: The foolish men claiming self-defense

It’s not just misguided teenagers carrying guns who find themselves in trouble with the law.

Larry Persily (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: State defends its right to cut nonexistent taxes

This from a state that has no property tax on homes or businesses, only on the oil industry.

Dr. Jay Butler, former chief medical officer for the State of Alaska, is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Feeling grateful this Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccines

The COVID vaccines remain our strongest tool in combating the pandemic and helping us return to our lives and the things we love and cherish.

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: All votes matter

In the beginning, only property-holding white men could vote.

Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Is management of Cook Inlet catered to special interest groups?

If these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Grateful for the hidden ‘good’

Gratitude: Noun The state of being grateful; thankfulness. The state or quality… Continue reading

Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski. (Photo provided)
Point of View: What is Homer High School about?

What I consider Homer High’s strength is that we are a place for learning.

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Invent your future at UAA

At UAA we’re providing the tools to help students of all ages and skills chart a new course forward.

A registered nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at the pop-up clinic on the Spit on May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Vaccination is the still best protection from COVID-19

The Alaska State Medical Association encourages you to protect yourselves and your community from preventable illness by getting recommended vaccines.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
The sad diminishment of Rep. Don Young

Young seems afraid to demand his party leader defend the dignity of the institution he loves.

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Alaska Voices: Restore our strong campaign donation limits

Without campaign spending limits, the ideal of one person, one vote is no longer really true.

The Final Redistricting Map approved for the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna area is seen on Nov. 9, 2021. (Map via
Alaska Voices: The Alaska Redistricting Board’s last-minute gerrymandering failed Alaska

Our Constitution outlines rules for a redistricting process designed to uphold public trust.