While the Canadian commercial and Indigenous salmon fisheries were largely shut down for conservation last year, the Alaskan fishery continued to scoop up hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of fish bound for the Skeena, the Nass, the Fraser, Vancouver Island, and points south.
The fishery is entirely legal, in accordance with the Pacific Salmon Treaty, but the Alaskan fishery involved in this interception is not regulated to tightly control river origin and survival of spawners, as the rest of the Alaskan fishery is.
A technical report from the Marine Conservation Caucus, commissioned by Watershed Watch Salmon Society and Skeena Wild Conservation Trust, goes into exquisite detail on the complicated issues. Alaskan Interceptions of BC Salmon: State of Knowledge (January 2022) used hundreds of data points and even 30-year-old salmon tag data to draw its conclusions, which it presents as a work-in-process.
Alaskan interceptions of Canadian-origin salmon and steelhead take place primarily in District 104, which is on the outside of the Alaska panhandle, and Tree Point near the Canadian border just above Prince Rupert. There are no major Alaskan pink salmon populations in District 104. The pink salmon caught in this area are migrating to the inside portions of the panhandle, or to Canada.
The catch has never been insignificant as the summary notes: “Importantly, these impacts continue despite declines in abundance of many species in BC. Additionally, catch of Canadian-bound salmon in most recent years is highest in Alaska.”
Anna Kemp of Watershed Watch Salmon Society told the Watershed Sentinel that the interception probably wasn’t as important in previous decades when there was a great abundance of fish. Watershed Watch is urging the Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to take action now, instead of waiting until 2028 when the Pacific Sal-mon Treaty is renewed.
Skeena Wild suggests there is a simple solution. The District 104 fishery could be moved into inside the panhandle portion of southeast Alaska “to fish with the rest of the fleet.”