The Southwest Alaska/Bristol Bay sockeye salmon stock complex is arguably the most resilient in the world thanks to largely intact habitat that supports an incredibly diverse “stock portfolio” of hundreds of unique runs. We now understand that, while some runs experience natural fluctuations from year to year, together they contribute to consistent regional returns year to year. This is the underlying reason why the region’s salmon fisheries continue to be not just locally, but also globally significant over time.
Protecting the integrity of the mosaic of intact habitat is central to sustaining Southwest Alaska’s fisheries so future generations of Alaskans and non-Alaskans both can benefit from a healthy, sustainable food source and enjoy the uniqueness of a region that has changed little since time immemorial. Alaska is the only U.S. state where salmon have yet to be extirpated or listed under the Endangered Species Act—largely because of large swaths of undeveloped lands where freshwater life stages of salmon have access to high quality historical habitat to rear and spawn generation after generation in an unbroken chain. It’s one of the last salmon ecosystems in the world that has remained virtually pristine and has not yet been subjected to the scale of human-caused landscape changes that have devastated once abundant salmon runs in Europe, eastern North America, and the Pacific Northwest.
We fully support the concepts contained in the State of Alaska’s Policy for the Management of Sustainable Salmon Fisheries, which explicitly recognize that fisheries management must: protect the full range of spawning, rearing, and migratory habitats; and provide for spawning escapements necessary to both conserve potential production and maintain normal ecosystem functioning.