Alaskans to vote on salmon habitat protection measure
On 6 November, Election Day in the United States, Alaskans will be voting on a ballot measure that seeks to protect the state’s salmon habitats.
Alaska Ballot Measure 1, the Salmon Habitat Protections and Permits Initiative, would enact stricter regulations for oil and gas development in salmon habitats and additional regulations for restoring salmon streams if they are disturbed by development. Companies that don’t follow the rules laid out in the measure would face criminal penalties.
The initiative pits the state’s fishing sector against another powerful lobby in the state - the oil and mining industry.
Mike Wood, a small-scale commercial salmon fisherman, is leading the Stand for Salmon campaign, which endorses the measure.
“The scale has been tipped too far in favor of development and industry. And we're just trying to pull it back towards the center,” he told Alaskan Public Media.
Wood acknowledged the immensity of taking on the oil and mining industry.
“When you start doing something like this, it's really kind of thumbing your nose at the big guys,” he said.
However, not all representatives of the seafood industry in Alaska back the measure. The Association of Alaska Native Regional Corporation, which represents Alaska Native-owned companies, including a number of seafood companies, has come out in opposition. Kim Reitmeier, the executive director of the ANCSA Regional Association, said last week at a forum on the measure in Juneau that Native corporations own 92 percent of private land in Alaska.
“We deserve the right to manage our land … this takes that away from us,” she said, according to the Juneau Empire.
Reitmeier agreed that salmon need to be protected but that Ballot Measure 1 is not the right path forward. The measure, she said, would increase the cost of oil and mining projects.
“We’re in a recession, we can’t afford that,” she said.
The wild-catch salmon fishery in Alaska is estimated to provide jobs for more than 32,00 Alaskans and to generate more than USD 2 billion (EUR 1.7 billion) annually.
Photo courtesy of National Park Service