The following is courtesy of SalmonState, Salmon Beyond Borders, Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission and United Fishermen of Alaska
SOUTHEAST ALASKANS RESPOND TO RELEASE OF AK – BC REPORT, HIGHLIGHT NEED FOR TRIBAL AND FEDERAL LEADERSHIP TO PROTECT INTERNATIONAL SALMON RIVERS
Juneau, AK – The State of Alaska and the Province of British Columbia released yesterday their final report on the B.C.-Alaska Transboundary Rivers Monitoring Program, claiming “extraordinary partnership” across the border and conclusion of the program after river sampling for just two years. While data collection for water quality and fish health in the shared Taku, Stikine, and Unuk Rivers is important, this report is extremely limited in scope, and the state and province grossly misrepresent their collaboration with Tribes in Alaska, First Nations in B.C., and U.S. federal agencies in their press release about the data report.
Furthermore, Alaska and B.C.’s characterization of their monitoring efforts dramatically underestimates the current situation as they do not address the future risks associated with large-scale industrial mining in the B.C. headwaters of these crucial shared salmon rivers. Now, more than ever, we need an international framework with Tribal and Federal leadership and community engagement to determine the future of these iconic watersheds — just as thousands of Alaskans, Tribes, commercial fishermen, municipalities, and the Alaska congressional delegation have requested for years.
Rob Sanderson, Jr, Chair, Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC): “Since the Dunleavey Administration came in, we have not been invited to any meetings. Everything fell off the table. This work is just getting started but they declare it ‘The End’.” Added Frederick Olsen, Jr, Executive Director, SEITC: “We found out about the report in the press. No data from Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska nor Ketchikan Indian Community, the two Alaska Tribes named in the report, was included. Where is the supposed collaboration with Tribes?”
Jill Weitz, Director, Salmon Beyond Borders: “The characterization of this report clearly shows that Alaska and B.C. agencies are not willing nor able to grapple with the huge challenges facing our shared rivers, yet they are trying to control the conversation to suggest “everything is fine” while undermining the concerns of Tribes, commercial fishermen, and thousands of Alaskans. The State of Alaska has yet again demonstrated why there is incredible need to create a framework that establishes binding and enforceable protections for these rivers at the federal level. ”
Frances Leach, Executive Director, United Fishermen of Alaska: “Our salmon populations in the Taku, Stikine, and Unuk are already struggling. We have made every attempt possible to engage the State of Alaska on this issue, and the fact that they arrived at these premature conclusions is a disservice to Alaskans and the fishing communities of Southeast Alaska. We need our federal delegation to elevate this issue to the highest levels.”