ADFG Fishery Hotlines
Troll (907) 465-8765 / (907) 747-8765 / (907) 772-3700 / (907) 225-6870
Groundfish (907) 747-4882
Enforcement (907) 478-3377
ADFG News Releases
ADFG SE/YKT Regulations
2015 Chinook Quota
Troll Fishery Management Plans
British Columbia Mining Agenda Threatens Fisheries Habitat Across the Region
ATA and other fishing, environmental, and tribal representatives are working together to help protect the region from large-scale acid mines being built near Alaska’s border with British Columbia. Since last year, the group has called upon the Alaska congressional delegation, US State Department, EPA, and British Columbian officials to utilize the Boundary Waters Treaty and its International Joint Commission to protect the region’s interest. Concerns stem from potential negative impacts that could result from several large mines. Last year’s tailings dam breach at the Mount Polley Mine in Likely, B.C. gave both nations a glaring look at what can occur at a mine that is relatively small in comparison to those scheduled to open in the near future.
Premier Christie Clark has touted British Columbia’s plans to fast-track the opening of eight new mines and expansion of nine others by 2015. More than 30 mines are currently under permit review.
Several key acid producing mines are the subject of our current issue focus. The Red Chris Mine, situated on the Stikine River, is owned by the same company as Mt. Polley and is currently in start-up phase. Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) began receiving permits this year.
KSM will be placed at the headwaters of the Unuk River, which flows into Southeast Alaska and is one of the region’s top king salmon producers. Primarily a copper mine, KSM would also produce silver, gold, and molybdenum. Current estimates suggest that this would be one of the world’s largest mines and dwarf anything that Alaska has seen. Seabridge Gold hopes to operate the mine for more than 50 years and extract about two billion tons of tailings. The mine will require two ‘100 year’ dams to hold tailings and the operator will attempt to treat volumes of water on a scale never before seen - 119,000 gallons per minute - with no contingency plan in the event of system failures. Water treatment for acid drainage and monitoring for selenium and other toxins would be needed in perpetuity, yet no one knows who will pay for such measures or mitigate any damages in Canada or Alaska. Another large open pit mine, Galore Creek, is slated for the headwaters of the Stikine River.
These mines present a clear and present threat to fish and wildlife that both Alaskan’s and Canadian’s rely on. Canada’s environmental laws appear to have been weakened in recent years and B.C.’s track record of water quality does not give confidence that messes will be prevented and adequately cleaned up, nor do they appear to have an adequate process to mitigate citizen’s losses. A case in point is the Tulsequah Chief Mine, which sits in a transboundary watershed near Juneau. Through the years various concepts to transport equipment, fuel, and ore have met with resistance by ATA and others, due to the risk posed to the salmon and past failures to adequately protect water quality. Since the 1950’s, acid from the old mine site has been draining into a tributary of the Taku River, which is the largest producer of salmon in Southeast. Canada has taken no meaningful action to clean up this leaky mine.
Both Red Chris and KSM operations are expected to dwarf the production at Mt. Polley. These mines and the cumulative impacts of many other scheduled projects could have a devastating effect on critical habitat. Alaska’s Congressional representatives agree, so they asked Secretary of State John Kerry to raise the issue with Canada’s federal and provincial governments.
Lt. Governor Byron Mallott and the Alaska Congressional Delegation have all contacted the State Department on the matter.
Lt. Governor Mallott visited the Mount Polley Mine last spring. Recently he hosted the B.C. Minister of Mines, Bill Bennett, on a tour of Southeast, followed by meetings with stakeholders. ATA was among the groups who met with the minister. ATA and USAG representatives wrote an opinion piece with their impression of this initial meeting. Some Canadians are reflecting our views.
Secretary John Kerry traveled to Alaska with President Obama recently and responded to a Juneau Empire reporter’s question about the mines, “That’s a serious issue, and obviously we are very concerned about Alaska, about the integrity of Alaska’s rivers. We’ve raised it with local governments, we’ve raised it with the federal government, and we will continue to, but it’s a…serious challenge. Downstream impacts should not be taken lightly by any country, anywhere.”
Coalition efforts will continue to urge both countries to establish meaningful provisions to safeguard natural resources and local jobs from any negative impacts of B.C.’s mining program.
JE 3-part series on KSM Mine
US Coast Guard
Safety Rules (still) on Horizon
Two new USGC safety requirements will take effect soon. Monitor the USCG websites for the most current updates on these and other requirements specific to your operation.
Mandatory Dockside Inspections: October 15, 2015
All commercial fishermen who operate beyond 3 nm of the Territorial Sea must have completed a dockside inspection prior to Oct 15, 2015. At this time, safety inspection decals are only good for 2 years.
Survival Craft: Feb 16, 2016
If you fish beyond 3 nm of the baseline, you must carry a survival craft, such as a lifeboat, inflatable liferaft, or inflatable buoyant apparatus that keeps you totally out of the water. You may apply for an exemption to this requirement.
In October 2010 the president signed into law the USCG Authorization Act of 2010. In January 2012 Congress passed the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012. Congress included in both of these laws a number of new safety rules for the commercial fishing industry. Changes include: a revised boundary line definition; new safety equipment and construction standards for uninspected commercial fishing vessels operating beyond the boundary; mandatory dockside inspections every 2 years; onboard logbook requirements for safety gear maintenance and drills; operator training; and revised survival craft requirements - life floats and buoyant apparatus will no longer be allowed as a substitute for a liferaft. Here is an overview of the potential changes: Safety Requirements – current as of December 2014.
Timeline for implementation of some requirements remains unclear. A few, such as load-line rules, will undergo additional rulemaking. You can help keep watch on new developments by monitoring the websites linked above. Be sure to comment on any proposed regulations and write the Commercial Fishing Safety Advisory Committee with your concerns.
Read ATA’s comments on the safety regs.
In anticipation of new requirements, Alaska Marine Safety Education Association has been offering free drill conductor training for commercial vessel owners, skippers, and crew. Funding for this program won’t last forever, so if you haven’t had a chance to get in on this excellent class, check soon to see if it is still available. Contact AMSEA for more information on locations and course schedules for this and other class offerings.
Southeast Chinook Mitigation Program
A $15 million Chinook mitigation program was authorized by Congress to help offset the impacts of Chinook quota reductions in Southeast Alaska under the 2009 Pacific Salmon Treaty agreement. Since 2011, funds have been used to assist trollers and anglers with a combination of direct payments, enhancement, and infrastructure projects. The Stakeholders Panel is a collaborative team of trollers, sport fishermen, processors, charter boat operators, Southeast communities, and the state. This group has worked together the last five years to define project areas for mitigation funds. The Panel met in spring 2014 to make its final recommendations to the Governor for the remainder of the mitigation fund. Projects proposed by ATA and approved by the state include: ice making and fuel delivery improvements, new hatchery production, processing equipment, work floats, and direct payments to fishermen. Many of these programs have already launched and are providing benefits to Southeast fishermen and their communities. The state expects all projects to be in place by the end of 2015. For more specifics on the program visit the state’s webpage: Chinook Mitigation.
Alaska Congressional Delegation Continue the Legislative Fight to Label GE Salmon
The FDA's recent approval of genetically engineered salmon was a significant disappointment for fishermen and others concerned about modified foods and the environment, but the Alaska delegation and others in congress are working to prevent the sale of these fish until the product is labeled. Senator Lisa Murkowski spoke on the Senate floor after the decision was announced and vowed to carry on the fight. She has even gone so far as to place a hold on the appointment of Dr. Robert Califf, who President Obama recently appointed as commissioner of the FDA. Last week Murkowski worked with her peers to successfully added language to the 2016 spending package, which ensures no GE salmon will be sold until the FDA drafts and implements a labeling process.
“The FDA shall not allow the introduction or delivery into inter-state commerce of any food that contains genetically-engineered salmon, until FDA has published final labeling guidelines for informing consumers of this content,” Murkowski said.
Senators Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young both introduced legislation in 2015 to require labeling and reduce the risks associated with genetically altered salmon. Senator Sullivan is listed as a co-sponsor on Murkowski’s legislation. It is likely that there will be additional legislative actions on this matter over the next year.
Listen to Senator Murkowski introduce her 2015 amendment to require the labeling of GE salmon. Hear Don Young debate his GE salmon amendment (go to 10:09:29pm on the video).
Genetically Engineered Salmon Risk Reduction Act - S. 738
Require labeling of engineered Fish - H.R. 393
Prevention of Escapement of Genetically Altered Salmon in the United States Act - H.R. 394
ATA Comment on FDA Proposed Approval of GE Salmon
ATA Opinion Piece on GE salmon
Congressman Young Introduces Fish Farm Bill
In 2015 Congressman Don Young submitted H.R.331, which would prohibit the permitting of commercial finfish farming in the EEZ until a federal law is passed to specifically provide for the activity.
NOAA and US Department of Commerce aquaculture policies.
More News and Updates