Why Are Alaska's Salmon Runs Down?

The consensus in academic papers and news articles is that the recent drop in Alaskan Coho and Sockeye Salmon returns can be attributed to rising ocean temperatures in the Pacific*, along with dynamic interactions between salmon and other marine life (competition with hatchery fish**, predators, etc). Scientists are confident that these factors are significantly contributing to the lower salmon runs, but can’t detail the exact impacts of each, in part, because researchers have difficulty tracking salmon throughout their lifespan in the ocean and collecting data on salmon productivity takes at least four years.

* 12/28/17, ADN, Nathaniel Herz: Alaska fishermen bewildered, alarmed at loss of king salmon

**2/12/18, ADN, Erin McKittrick: Too many pink salmon in Kachemak Bay?

 

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Ballot Measure 1 doesn't Solve the Problems in the Ocean

Ballot Measure 1 only suggests adding regulations on land. None of the regulations–which you can read here–address issues in the ocean.

Our current fish habitat regulations and permitting process already provide the following:

  • A three-tiered system that allows different designations for different habitats

  • A system for identifying salmon habitats paid for by the State

  • Regulations for maintaining healthy habitats

  • Fines for those who violate regulations

  • The ability for citizens to provide public comment on large scale projects

  • Special habitat designations that prevent development within a certain region

  • A public process that allows anyone in Alaska to nominate a body of water to be added to the Anadromous Fish Habitat Catalog (a list that denotes salmon habitat)

What Does Ballot Measure 1 Change?

  • All waters would be assumed to have salmon, even if no fish are present. This includes seasonal bodies of water, underground water and water at high elevations where no fish have ever been found historically.

  • In order to develop on or near any water in Alaska, you, as a homeowner, or a company must pay to have a scientist come out and conduct a study. This applies to all projects of all sizes.

  • You can't alter the habitat in anyway: can't increase or decrease water level, can't reroute a stream, can't alter the banks, can't alter the land around the banks

  • Fines for violations are no longer civil fines. They become criminal charges with possible jail time. Each day you or a company is in violation of a regulation counts as its own, unique fine.

  • The measure would not allow for mixing zones, which are an EPA approved tactic used in wastewater treatment plants.

  • The measure would not allow for hydroelectric plants

Who is impacted by these changes?

  • Homeowners will have to pay for scientific studies to put in a dock, culvert or septic tank on their properties. The permit for those projects can still be denied after the study is conducted.

  • Homebuilders will have to pay for scientific studies to make sure they can build on a piece of land. The permit for those projects can still be denied after the study is conducted.

  • It would be nearly impossible to permit the Alaska Gas Pipeline under Ballot Measure 1.

  • The Trans-Alaska Pipeline would require extensive changes to be able to come into compliance with Ballot Measure 1.

  • The Department of Transportation will see increases costs and delays and would risk foregoing federal funding due to an overcomplicated process. DOT has stated that many of the safety precautions they take when developing or repairing a road would not be possible due to Ballot Measure 1.

  • Wastewater treatment plants would not be allowed to have a mixing zone, forcing expensive upgrades and infrastructure changes that could impact rate payer's monthly bills.

  • Mines in Alaska would not be able to continue operations.

  • Ice roads on the North Slope would be threatened