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Unrest in the fishing industry has been growing steadily in the last few weeks in Alaska. A polarized political situation, lawsuits for killing whales, and historic records decrease in the salmon stock have been the main causes of tension in the Alaskan fishery.

This week the Senate unanimously passed House Joint Resolution 5, introduced by Rep. Himschoot, calling on the Federal Government and the State of Alaska to continue to defend Alaska’s fisheries, including the Southeast Alaska troll fishery.

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Moreover, a few tribal and subsistence advocates criticize Governor Mike Dunleavy’s appointment of a rural fisheries executive to an influential federal management role. This is another sign of rising polarization and the stakes for Alaska’s fisheries policy amid a historical decline in salmon stocks.

These facts demonstrate the difficult times Alaska is going through right now.

House Joint Resolution 5

The Southeast Alaska troll salmon fishery is threatened by a lawsuit filed by the Washington-based environmental group Wild Fish Conservancy. This lawsuit seeks to stop the Southeast troll fishery for the impact it has on southern resident killer whales in Puget Sound.

A recent report by a Washington trial judge recommended disallowing the retention of king salmon during the winter and summer seasons of the Southeast Alaska troll fishery. However, this closure would be devastating to the troll fleet and would have a significant economic impact on the region.

According to this resolution, trolling is a sustainable low-barrier fishery. This means that fishermen in nearly all 33 communities in Southeast Alaska catch every fish hook and line, holding 85% of the permits. There are approximately 1,450 trollers who contribute more than $85 million to Alaska’s coastal economies.

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Prosecutor reading a lawsuit. Photo by: Adobe Stock.

Polarization of appointments: Tsukada is not prepare

Last week, Dunleavy announced Rudy Tsukada as his first-choice candidate to hold a vacant seat on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. This is the entity that oversees the huge crab and whitefish catches of the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, now the Council is under pressure to reduce the bycatch of king and chum salmon, species that have all but disappeared from the Kuskokwim and Yukon rivers in southwest Alaska in recent years.

Tsukada is the director of operations of one created by Congress three decades ago, Community Development Quotas (CDQ), named the Coastal Villages Region Fund.

Thus, CDQ is one of the six non-profit groups, which play a unique role in Alaskan fisheries and politics. They, in the 1990s, received whitefish quotas, implying their involvement in trawling, and thus, in the bycatch of Southwest Alaska’s salmon stocks.

However, supporters of these groups argue that these economic development and social benefits. A goal that – for their supporters – shows their sensitivity to the regional crisis in the face of salmon fisheries and commercial closures. Nevertheless, others said Dunleavy missed an opportunity to add a fresh perspective to the Council, none of whose current members represent a tribal entity.

Mellisa Maktuayaq Johnson, one of the favourite names for tribal and subsistence groups

According to federal newspapers, several tribal and subsistence groups, along with the Bering Sea Crabbers, had pushed for the appointment of Mellisa Maktuayaq Johnson. Johnson is an Iñupiaq – an ethnic group of northern and northwestern Alaska – and serves as director of government affairs and policy for the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Tribal Consortium.

She has a huge background, working from traditional indigenous neighbors to international level. Mellisa Maktuayaq Johnson explains her experience “with many tribal members, Alaskan communities, villages, tribal serving organizations, and interactions on the local, state, federal, and international level, including the International Maritime Organization.”

Appointment of Mike Dunleavy as Governor of Alaska. Photo by: Government of Alaska.

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