This is in response to Andy Wink’s commentary published on ADN.com on Oct. 26. Mr. Wink suggested that marine mammals, including seals and orca whales, are primarily responsible for the decline in chinook salmon from the Yukon, Kuskokwim, Deshka, Susitna, Nushagak, Copper, Kenai and other rivers in Alaska and from the waters of Southeast Alaska.
Mr. Wink is the executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. The mission of the BBRSDA is “maximizing the value of the Bristol Bay fishery for the benefit of our members.” The board of directors of the BBRSDA consists of only current and prior commercial fishermen. I could not find a list of the members, but I am guessing that the members are also primarily commercial fishermen. As a result, Andy Wink, who did not cite any specific studies to support his data, has a strong incentive to blame any cause but overfishing by commercial fishermen for the decline in chinook salmon.
I have lived in Alaska since 1979. I have watched as the numbers of people fishing on the Kenai and other rivers increased, until people were elbow-to-elbow on the Kenai River. I have read about king salmon derbies during which people try to catch the largest and most genetically superior and unique chinook salmon from Alaska’s rivers. Orca whales actually feed on other marine mammals, including seals and otters. If Wink is correct that orcas and pinnipeds are responsible for the decline in chinook salmon, then why is it that Alaska’s Indigenous peoples, the marine and other mammals, and the chinook salmon that live in Alaska, have been able to thrive for thousands of years and are only now declining?
— Michelle Bittner
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