More Time Sought For WFC Response

By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Sentinel Staff Writer
    The state of Alaska is asking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to extend the comment period on a petition by the Wild Fish Conservancy to list Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
    The request by Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang is to extend the deadline from the current July 23 to September 6, 2024, or later, in order to provide comments and information on the “90-day Finding on a Petition to List Gulf of Alaska Chinook Salmon as Threatened or Endangered under the ESA.” The 90-day finding is the first step in a process of reviewing whether to list a species as threatened or endangered.
    The request was sent in a June 3 letter to Jon Kurland, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region.
    Vincent-Lang says the status review will be “the first of this nature conducted for Alaska salmon,” and that more time is needed for the state’s response because of the vast area covered in the WFC petition, among other factors.
    He said the area of interest represents a sizable geographic area encompassing a broad swath of coastline from the Canadian border out through the Aleutians.
    “This is akin to carrying out a single status review for all Chinook salmon in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho,” he said.
    The commissioner said the Fish and Game Department has a vested interest in managing Chinook salmon, and that NOAA will need certain “crucial information” from the department to make a decision on the ESA status review. That includes scientific data for stock assessment, stock biology, stock distribution and timing, stock genetics, catch accounting, catch composition and fishing effort, all of which play a critical role in management.
    F&G said decisions on management and conservation also have broad impacts on social, cultural and economic well being of coastal communities in Alaska.
    In Sitka, Alaska Trollers Association president Matt Donohoe said the requested additional time is “essential, given the magnitude of the WFC petition.”
    “WFC is asking for what amounts to a major study on incredibly diverse stocks from west of Kodiak, to Cook Inlet, Copper River, the Alsec and Southeast Alaska,” he said. “The July 23 deadline would require the state to come up with a multi-year study, in a few weeks. At the same time Fish and Game is managing the world’s largest salmon fishery.”
    WFC filed a petition with NOAA Fisheries in January to list Chinook salmon as threatened or endangered under ESA, and claiming the state of Alaska isn’t doing enough to protect Chinook salmon.
    In 2020 WFC sued the same agency claiming Southeast Alaska king salmon troll fisheries were contributing to the decline of the southern resident killer whales by taking salmon that comprise a major food source for whales. The lawsuit nearly prevented the summer Southeast troll season from opening in 2023, but the Ninth Circuit of Appeals stayed the order of the U.S. District Court of Western Washington.

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20 YEARS AGO

July 2004
Photo caption: Junior League All Stars will compete in a tournament in Wrangell. From left are Bryn Calhoun, Chris Scott, Sean O’Neill, Ross Venneberg, Caleb McGraw, Richard Carlos, Jacob Houston, Coby McCarty, Bryan Lovett and Daniel Erickson.

50 YEARS AGO

July 1974

Photo caption: Volunteers leave the Yaw Building Library with loads of books being transferred to the new Orin and Betty Stratton Library on the Sheldon Jackson campus. SJC librarian Evelyn Bonner expressed appreciation to the community for the help.

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