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Cordova fishermen protest Navy training exercises in Gulf of Alaska

More than 100 commercial fishing vessels turned out Friday to raise awareness and speak out against the U.S. Navy's upcoming training exercises in the Gulf of Alaska. Vessels paraded from Cordova's harbor to the local fuel dock, where they tied up in a protest against the Navy's "war games."

In a chant led by James Mykland, a Prince William Sound Area E commercial fisherman, protestors shouted, "No Northern Edge!"

Scheduled to begin in June, Northern Edge is an Alaska-wide training exercise involving 6,000 to 14,000 personnel from the U.S. armed forces; state, federal and local agencies; allied nations and nongovernmental organizations.

"The harm and long-lasting detrimental effects to millions of salmon and marine species by the U.S. Navy exploding bombs, shooting missiles and deploying sonar buoys in the Gulf of Alaska is not worth whatever ultimate goal the Navy is striving for," said Mykland in an earlier statement. "Our oceans cannot be healthy if we keep dumping toxic chemicals into them. Tell the U.S. Navy they are not welcome in the Gulf of Alaska."

Gulf of Alaska Navy Training Activities brochures and posters have been distributed at community meetings in Cordova as far back as 2011. They describe the importance of the Navy's 30-year history of training in Alaska to peacekeeping missions, earthquake response, infrastructure protection, homeland defense and more. The materials also describe the importance of training with active sonar and explosives and the need for realistic training.

However, in a draft letter to Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, organizers from the Eyak Preservation Council say the Gulf exercises would see massive increases from any conducted before, including a 6,500 percent increase in sonobuoys, a 200 percent increase in bombs and missile, and the potential to leave more than 352,000 lbs. of expended and hazardous materials in the Gulf of Alaska.

"Our fisheries and lives haven't yet fully recovered from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill; now our already impacted oceans and fishing livelihoods are being attacked and grossly mistreated by our own country? Enough is enough!" said Cordova subsistence and commercial fisherman Dune Lankard.

From June 15 to June 29, the Navy exercises will use sonar and live ordnance in a training area in the Gulf of Alaska about 300 nautical miles in length by 150 nautical miles in width, stretching from south of Yakutat to Kodiak.

According to the EPC, the Navy's exercises would affect state Marine Protected Areas, NOAA Fisheries protected areas and essential fish habitat, taking place during the most prolific breeding and migratory periods of the marine-supported life in the region.

This story was originally published in The Cordova Times and is republished here with permission.

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