Alaska has been ordered to stop intercepting BC-bound Chinook salmon

The May 2023 ruling halts a controversial troll fishery off Alaska’s coast.

More than 90%, and up to 97%, of the Chinook salmon that the southeast Alaska troll fishery catches are not Chinook from Alaska. Thousands of Chinook salmon have been intercepted in this fishery in Alaska for decades as they migrate to British Columbia and southern US waters.

In May, 2023, a US federal judge issued a ruling to halt the troll fishery off southeast Alaska’s west coast, saying the permits that enable the fishery do not properly protect endangered Southern Resident killer whales. The lawsuit was brought by the Washington-based Wild Fish Conservancy.  Stopping this fishery will increase prey availability for the endangered whales, as well as allow threatened and endangered Chinook a better chance to reach their spawning rivers.

The lawsuit draws attention to  the need for the conservation of endangered populations, whether they be killer whales or Chinook salmon.  The decision is being appealed by the Alaska Trollers Association and the State of Alaska.  We hope the decision stands and that Canada can seriously reflect on the fact that we also conduct mixed stock interception fisheries on migrating populations.

Many of these fisheries, globally and locally, need to move away from this model; we need to be fishing terminally; this means close to, or at, the rivers of origin for these migrating Chinook.  We also need to stop fishing on the rearing grounds of Chinook salmon, which is one of the factors driving the smaller size and age that we’re seeing in Chinook. Fish are getting younger and smaller.  While climate change and hatcheries are contributing factors in this, ‘growth overfishing’ is also due to these fisheries that occur on Chinook rearing grounds.

It’s time that we start having a serious conversation about what real sustainability looks like in managing Chinook populations, and put the focus on rebuilding and recovery. 

In 2023, we need a Pacific Salmon Treaty for salmon populations that focuses on their continued persistence, and ideally resilience, in the face of climate change.  We must recognize that rebuilding and recovery need to be the focus for many, if not most, wild populations of Chinook.  That’s what an international treaty should be at this day and age between Canada and the US, a treaty on how to conserve those populations. And that did not happen in the last renegotiation.

Segment with Misty MacDuffee on The Jill Bennett Show.

Or listen to Misty’s interview with CKNW host Jill Bennett on Spotify starting at 33 minutes.

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Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.