The region supports important wildlife populations and is home to over 30 Indigenous tribes.
The Biden administration recently released their “30x30” plan: Conservation of at least 30% of U.S. lands and oceans by 2030. Alaskan fishermen, including the Sitka Salmon Shares community, are optimistic about the report and name Bristol Bay and the Tongass National Forest as conservation priorities “ready to go.”
“While there are multiple ways to reach ‘30x30’ goals, two ‘shovel ready’ climate solutions exist in Alaska that offer critical fish habitat protections: Bristol Bay and Tongass,” Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, released in a statement. Her organization represents hundreds of small-boat Alaska fishermen. “Conserving Bristol Bay and the Tongass ecosystems will provide huge benefits for Alaska fisheries and coastal communities while buffering Alaska’s iconic fisheries against the accelerating impacts of climate change.”
Southeast Alaska is home to Sitka and the spectacular Tongass National Forest, one of the largest intact temperate rainforests in the world and an ecological treasure. The Tongass spans across the entire southeastern panhandle of the state. It provides vital spawning habitat to wild salmon, which helps create a thriving commercial salmon fishery in Southeast Alaska.
A similarly rich ecosystem, Alaska’s Bristol Bay is home to the largest sockeye salmon runs on the planet. The region supports not only globally important fish and wildlife populations, it’s also home to over 30 Indigenous tribes who have relied on clean water and healthy salmon for thousands of years. Bristol Bay’s commercial and sport fisheries support 14,000 jobs and is one of the few places left on earth where ways of life, culture, and economy depend on the continued health of habitat and fish at the scale they do.
“Initially, we were concerned that the ‘30x30’ effort could create no-take marine areas thereby closing waters to small-boat fisheries while doing little to actually help solve our climate emergency,” Kelly Harrell, Chief Fisheries Officer at Sitka Salmon Shares told Alaska Public Radio. “But we applaud the administration for acknowledging the crucial role of local people, farmers, and fishermen as stewards of our lands and waters, and for moving toward solutions that honor this interconnection. Fishermen and local residents have led efforts over many generations to protect important habitats like the Tongass and Bristol Bay that they rely on, efforts that are now more urgent in the face of accelerating climate change.”