Feds urged to address climate changes impacting coastal communities 

Alaska fisheries and environmental entities are urging federal officials mandated with developing an ocean justice strategy to address inequities plaguing the ocean and coasts of the United States. 

The disproportionate management decisions that burden the conservation of Alaska’s salmon, halibut and crab stocks landing on Alaska’s indigenous subsistence users, sport fishermen and small boat, direct target commercial fishery participants must be addressed, they said. 

In their letter to Arati Prabhakar, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Brenda Mallory, chair of the Council on Environment Quality, came in response to a request from those two federally mandated entities, who are charged with identifying opportunities to fully integrate environmental justice principles into ocean-related activities of the federal government.  

The letter was signed by Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState; Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association; Karen Gillis, program director of Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association; and Hunter McIntosh, president and executive director of The Boat Company. 

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEA) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on behalf of the Ocean Policy Committee (OPC) posted the request in the Federal Register in late June for all interested parties to submit their comments by July 24. 

The Federal Register announcement noted that communities with environmental justice concerns face entrenched disparities that are often the legacy of racial discrimination and marginalization, redlining, exclusionary zoning, and other discriminatory decisions or patterns. 


Bristol, Behnken, Gillis, and McIntosh agreed, noting in their letter that “Alaska Native representation in the federal fisheries management in the North Pacific has been severely lacking and has resulted in coastal communities and small boat direct target fishers disproportionately burdened and adversely impacted by those federal fisheries management decisions.”   

They said that incorporating traditional and local knowledge through respecting, identifying and including Alaska Native and community members who hold knowledge is key to guiding the council and National Marine Fisheries Service in more equitable and informed decision-making. 

Management of federal fisheries in the federal waters should be conducted through true ecosystem-based fishery management, they told Prabhakar and Mallory.  

“Implementing this management approach should include setting total allowable catch limits and prohibited species catch caps for bycatch with a comprehensive look at the target fishery’s impacts to the whole ecosystem, including other fisheries, communities and habitat,” they said. “In addition, an ecosystem management approach should balance the economic benefits of the target fishery with the negative economic, cultural, and ecological impacts it causes and exacerbates, rather than giving the target fishery’s economic benefits an unbalanced weight.”  

The letter signers suggested that the committee urge NOAA Fisheries and the regional councils to undertake necessary updates to federal fisheries management to include ecosystem-based fisheries management that includes climate adaptive fishery management equitable conservation measures for fish population and scientific information that includes traditional ecological knowledge.