June 23, 2022

Press Release: Gara Calls for Alaska First Fish Policy

Alaska’s Fish Should Be Treated As Our Other Permanent Fund

Anchorage — This week, Alaska fisheries managers announced grim fish runs and severely limited fishing opportunities on the Yukon and Kuskokwim river drainages. Alaska Gubernatorial Candidate Les Gara is calling on Alaska to take action and adopt a fish-first policy.

Gara states: “Last year outside-owned factory trawlers dumped over 1,000 tons of halibut to the bottom of the ocean and killed over a half million Chum and 15,000 king salmon in just the Bering Sea. Now Alaskans in the Y-K Delta are seeing some of the worst king and chum runs in Alaska history, with fishing on the Lower Yukon closed to those who rely on fish for food and income. It’s time to put Alaskans first when we manage our fisheries. Our fish are our other Permanent Fund.”

Alaska controls a majority of the seats on the federal fisheries council that sets fishing policy beyond the state’s three-mile limit and is positioned to protect our fish runs. Instead, the Alaska members are allowing mass slaughter instead of prioritizing Alaskan’s interests.

‘This Governor has appointed members who put factory trawler interests ahead of Alaska interests, and that has to stop,” said Gara.

At the most recent meeting this month, the State of Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game representative introduced and passed a motion at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to do nothing to establish stricter limits on the killing of chum salmon, or reduce the limit of allowable killed king salmon by factory trawlers in the Bering Sea. And earlier this year they passed a window-dressing amendment that cuts the killing of over 1,000 tons of halibut by less than 3%. 

“Communities in the Y-K Delta that rely on these fish are left with scraps,” said Gara. “Alaska’s Governor gets to nominate, and effectively appoint a majority of the 11 voting members of this Council. We should have strong voices of fisheries experts and knowledgeable Alaskans who rely on fish for food and income. That’s a first step towards repairing fisheries Alaskans have relied on for thousands of years.”

When asked what actions need to be taken immediately, Gara stated that along with nominating council members who will put fish first, Alaska’s Governor must stand against outside mass slaughter of fish in Western Alaska and against the Pebble Mine project in Bristol Bay.  

‘Pebble Mine threatens the world’s greatest remaining wild salmon runs, and Governor Dunleavy has spent money on lawyers to support it,” said Gara, who opposed the Pebble project as a legislator and spoke against the mine during public testimony last week, and filed public comments today. 

“We can have responsible fisheries policy. We can have responsible mining. What’s happening in western Alaska isn’t responsible fisheries management, and Pebble isn’t a responsible project,” said Gara.