New Alaska U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola On Salmon Issues

Mary Peltola made history this week when the Democrat defeated, among others, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, in a ranked-choice process to fill the remaining term of late U.S. Rep. Don Young, who held the state’s only seat in the House for decades before he passed away in March.

Peltola, who will seek Alaska’s permanent seat in the House in the general November election – she’ll be the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress – has been an advocate to protect Alaska’s fisheries industry in her campaign platform.

In a Q&A session with Alaska Public Media, among other topics discussed was Peltola’s takes on Alaska’s fishing industry, which has suffered through low stocks of king salmon and closures for sport fishing kings throughout the state. Here’s what the new Representative said about salmon woes in the interview:

Kravinsky: I want to talk about fishing now. Supporting subsistence fishing is a huge part of your campaign. You were in Bethel this past weekend. The river is closed to coho salmon fishing for the first time ever. What was that like for you?

Peltola: Well, food security and the issues that we’re facing in western Alaska certainly was the the leading reason that I wanted to run for this seat. To really elevate those issues and talk about the need for precautionary management and talking about the need for good management of our marine ecosystem. And really the dependence that we have across Alaska on wild foods for our food security, and it was heartbreaking. And it’s demoralizing to see the runs, the salmon runs, the depressed salmon stocks that we’ve been experiencing the last 13 years. And it’s of great concern to me that now silvers are being restricted. This is the third species that we have had very severe restrictions put upon us. And I do think that it is time that the burden of conservation be extended to people far beyond our river systems.

The burden of conservation needs to be shared in a much more equal fashion. And especially that burden needs to be shared with people who just have an economic interest in our salmon and in our marine resources. So that is an issue that’s very close to my heart. Salmon and our dependence on salmon is a relationship that we’ve had for 12,000 years on the Kuskokwim River, and it’s one that we do not want to lose. It really is our tie to the people who came before us, and it’s really incumbent upon us to make sure that that resource is available for the generations that come after us.