Hearing slated for Lynn Canal herring petition

Meeting tonight to include presentations by Fish and Game, Sierra Club

Posted: Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Juneau Douglas Fish and Game Advisory Committee will hold a public hearing on a petition to list Lynn Canal herring as an endangered or threatened species at 6:30 p.m. today at Centennial Hall.

Sound off on the important issues at

The meeting will include presentations by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is studying whether to list the fish under the Endangered Species Act, and the Sierra Club, which filed the petition in April. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game also will present information, and public testimony will be taken.

"This petition will have the potential to significantly affect this city," the announcement for the meeting stated. "For example the wastewater treatment facility might need to meet higher standards than currently required; the ferry system might be affected; roads and road drainage; the harbors in Auke Bay and commercial fishing and recreational boating from Auke Bay to Sherman, etc."

The fisheries service is accepting public comments on the possible listing until Dec. 10.

Know and go

• What: Public hearing on Lynn Canal herring petition.

• When: 6:30 p.m. today.

• Where: Centennial Hall.

• Who: sponsored by Juneau Douglas Fish and Game Advisory Committee.

• For more information, go to www.fakr.noaa.gov/protectedresources/herring/default.htm.

Although the committee advises Fish and Game, it often weighs in on other issues it thinks might affect its constituents, said Chairwoman Kathy Hansen, who holds a commercial fishing seat on the 15-member committee. The results of the meeting will be used to compose the committee's comments to the fisheries service.

"I'm concerned any time there's an ESA listing in the area. I think you can provide protection to the resources without providing an ESA listing," Hansen said. "There has not been commercial fishing in the area since 1981, so to say commercial fishing has damaged this, I would not buy into that argument at this time."

She said commercial fishermen have noticed a huge increase in whales and other marine predators in recent years.

"If the population was in that bad of shape, I don't think you would see the increase in the number of predators here," Hansen said.

Richard Hellard, the acting chair of the Sierra Club's Juneau group, said the decline in the herring is well documented and whatever has been done to protect the fish has not worked. He added it's not the group's goal to inhibit commercial fishing activity.

"Everything here in Southeast is very dependent on the herring," Hellard said. "It's hard for me to imagine that anyone would be opposed to protecting and restoring the abundance of herring in Lynn Canal. It seems like a good thing, for commercial fishing, the tour operators and everyone else."

The Sierra Club's petition says overfishing depleted herring numbers first, but destruction of spawning grounds is keeping the fish from recovering. Other factors that could be impeding their recovery include oceanic warming, oil pollution and human-caused noise, the petitions said.

"The most imminent threat to the herring is the development of a highway, gold mine and marine terminal facilities in the region of Berners Bay. ... The proposed developments around Berners Bay, now the last stronghold for the herring, will likely sound the death knell for this once numerous schooling fish," the petition said.

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