The decision on whether to allow troll fishing for Chinook salmon in Alaskan waters, the subject of Amy Grondin’s letter in the June 14 issue, is made by the National Marine Fisheries Service …
The decision on whether to allow troll fishing for Chinook salmon in Alaskan waters, the subject of Amy Grondin’s letter in the June 14 issue, is made by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), a federal agency.
The NMFS is required to follow federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), including assessing the impact of the fishing on the endangered southern resident orcas, whose diet consists largely of Chinook salmon that migrate to Alaskan waters in the summer.
The federal court in Seattle issued a ruling in September 2021 finding that the NMFS’s 2019 Southeast Alaska Biological Opinion, forming the basis of the decision to allow the troll fishery to proceed, was arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with law. The Biological Opinion included an “incidental take statement” finding that the troll salmon harvest was likely to result in some level of harm to the local orcas by reducing prey availability, causing the whales to forage for longer periods, travel to alternate locations, or abandon foraging efforts.
The incidental take statement was issued without the NMFS preparing an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment, as required by the NEPA.
There are many potentially contributing factors to the population decline of the orcas, including vessel impacts, habitat destruction, and pollution.
But Alaskan trollers’ chosen livelihood, catching and killing of the orca’s primary food source in Alaskan waters, contributes to the loss of prey availability, which is a main factor in the orca’s decline. This is not a mere “distorted narrative” as stated in Ms. Grondin’s letter. This livelihood should only be sanctioned by the NMFS when environmental laws are followed.