Declining salmon resource prompts cry to decrease incidental catch

Community organizers from Alaska concerned over the millions of pounds of wild salmon and halibut caught incidentally by factory trawlers off Alaska while abundance of both kinds of fish are in decline took their message to consumers in Seattle on Saturday, Dec. 11.

The group from Alaska Big Village Network and Block Corporate Salmon gathered on public property outside of Whole Foods in downtown Seattle, holding signs and interacting with passersby to tell their story about how factory trawlers off the coast of Alaska are catching over millions of pounds of bycatch — fish caught incidentally to their directed harvest — while indigenous communities are lacking enough fish to harvest for subsistence and cultural survival.

Representatives of the commercial trawlers said they wished to decline comment at this time.

Leonardo Wassille, who was there with Salmonberry Tribal Associates, said they talked with passersby about their indigenous heritage and Yu’pik Eskimo culture “and how we provide for people from what we are blessed to receive from our indigenous participation with Mother Earth; how we honor the marine animals and fish that our oceans and rivers provide.”

Wassille said that folks working on the trawlers, by comparison, are killing marine life and salmon and trying to find other data to support their arguments for increasing fishing and bycatch to profit at the expense of the hunger and cultural identity of indigenous peoples.

The group expressed concern for seafood certification programs, including those of the Marine Stewardship Council and Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch “for allowing the factory trawler industry to greenwash/bluewash their certified logo as “sustainable seafood.”


Tribal organizations, including the Association of Village Council Presidents, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Kawerak Inc., and the Alaska Federation of Natives recently sent a letter to Alaska’s congressional delegation noting the number of fisheries disasters in recent years, including the summer of 2021 when the Yukon River was closed to all commercial and subsistence fishing.

Fishing practices of the factory trawler industry are causing irreparable harm, said Nikos Pastos, an environmental sociologist at the National Tribal Emergency Management Council and part of the Alaska Big Village Network.