The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly signed onto a letter to President Joe Biden’s administration asking to have “a seat at the table” during ongoing discussions about how to adapt fisheries to climate change. 

The gears are turning at the federal level and no one wants to be left behind. On one of his first days in office, Biden signed an executive order targeting climate change.

In it, the order tells the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to collect comments from “fishermen, regional ocean councils, fishery management councils, scientists, and other stakeholders on how to make fisheries and protected resources more resilient to climate change.” 

Assembly Member Julie Kavanaugh, who owns a fishing business, attends meetings of the Alaska Fishing Communities (AFC) as an individual. She brought the letter forward from meetings with AFC, which has other signatories like the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and the city of Saint Paul. 

It asks for a “seat at the table,” as Kavanaugh said, when discussing next steps in addressing climate change and resiliency. 

“Alaska’s fishermen have experienced first-hand the challenges facing fisheries-dependent communities in the 21st century, including the effects of climate change, bycatch prioritization, stock variability, and destructive fishing practices in domestic and international waters, all of which result in highly fluctuating, unstable, or declining fisheries,” the letter reads. 

“Loss of fish stocks, fishing opportunities and fishery-related revenue adversely impact fishermen, fishery-dependent businesses and Alaska’s fishing communities. Moreover, these impacts are disproportionately devastating to vulnerable rural populations including Alaska Natives.”

A number of Kodiak residents called into the meeting to voice their support for the letter. 

“As a fisheries dependent community, it’s really critical that Kodiak engages in the discussions of possible actions moving forward,” Theresa Peterson said during public comment. 

“We all want strong and sustainable fisheries management in response to climate change, but we don’t want to be cut out of traditional fishing grounds where we make a living as a solution. … We want healthy oceans and climate solutions too.” 

Assembly members agreed. 

“We need to get as involved with climate change as much as possible, especially with the administration that we have because they are going to make extreme moves and definitely impact our fishing community,” Assembly Member James Turner said. 

There were some concerns about signing onto a letter that the borough itself was not a part of, but it eventually passed.

“We are encouraged to see you call for input from those of us on the frontlines of climate change impacts to the ocean. Our fishermen and fishing communities really are the eyes and ears of climate change in Alaska. We urge you to weigh input from all fishermen in this process including small boat community-based fishermen and fishing dependent communities,” the letter said.

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