Protect salmon, attend hearing tonight

Posted: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

Tonight is the chance for any and all king salmon anglers to address the most important salmon issue we face in Southeast Alaska. The question is should the federal government cut Southeast Alaska's king salmon allocation by up to 75 percent or should we dismantle four obsolete dams on the lower Snake River to improve salmon survival?

The Snake River chinook is on the endangered species list. Their habitat has been destroyed by numerous dams on the Snake and Columbia Rivers. The demise of the Snake River chinook has been obvious for many years.

Unfortunately Southeast Alaska anglers are targeted as a ``solution'' to this problem. Few Snake River chinooks are caught in Southeast waters. According to Alaska's Fish and Game Department, of 10,000 Snake River salmon hatched and released, only two are caught in Southeast Alaska each year. No matter. One of the solutions proposed to save Snake River chinooks is to cut the Southeast king salmon allocation, even though there is no appreciable impact on Snake River chinook survival.

Many of us remember when our coho limit was reduced from six to three fish to save cohos in Washington state. The result of that reduction was worthless. Now, we're being asked to cut back on our king salmon harvest to prevent a problem we didn't cause. Alaska fishing practices are not the problem, the dams and habitat destruction in the Lower 48 are the culprits.

Thanks to Gov. Knowles and other political leaders in Alaska, the federal government is finally getting around to addressing this problem. But will the federal government cut the Southeast king salmon catch or dismantle four dams on the lower Snake River? The only reasonable way to restore Snake River chinook stocks is to restore the salmon's natural habitat. Until Gov. Knowles weighed in on this topic, no Alaska hearings were scheduled. Knowles insisted Southeast residents be allowed to voice our opinions and concerns on this topic.

The hearing in Juneau is at Centennial Hall tonight. Gov. Knowles believes the problem with diminished Snake River chinooks is due to habitat loss down south, not with Alaska fishing. We need to support Gov. Knowles and participate in this hearing. Written comments may also be submitted to: Federal Caucus Comment Record, c/o BPA-PL, 707 W. Main St., Suite 500, Spokane, Wash., 99201; or email federalcaucus@bpa.gov.

This is one issue that should unite sport anglers, commercial fishermen and subsistence users. Fewer dams mean more fish for all of us. Please join me in supporting our wild salmon tonight.

Jim Preston is a longtime Alaska resident, sport angler, retired JDHS math teacher and local charter operator.



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