Alaska Fishermen Organize Flotilla to Protest Navy’s Training Plans

by Guest Blogger

May 22, 2015

Written by Emily Stolarcyk, Program Manager for the Eyak Preservation Council in Cordova, AK.

Last Saturday, over 100 commercial salmon fishing boats and hundreds of onlookers joined in a peaceful protest to demonstrate against the Navy’s training activities in the Gulf of Alaska near Cordova. Starting June 15th, the Navy plans to conduct ‘Northern Edge‘ very close to the South Central Alaskan coastline. Dangerous sonar and weapons will be used in what they call ‘realistic’ war games. The training area overlaps with State Marine Protected areas, NOAA Fisheries Protected areas and include critical and Essential Fish Habitat. These trainings are planned to take place during the most prolific breeding and migratory periods of the marine supported life in the region (salmon, whales, birds and more). Immediate harm to marine life includes death from direct explosions, use of sonar (disorients, kills, and causes beaching of marine animals), and the physical destruction and chemical pollution of essential habitat areas.

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A massive flotilla of 100 commercial fishing boats off Cordova, AK protested the Navy’s training activities on Saturday, May 16, 2015.

These areas have not recovered from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and are home to Alaska’s most diverse population of Indigenous Peoples, who rely on its bounties for subsistence, commercial and traditional hunting and gathering activities. Native inhabitants living on the northern coast of the Gulf of Alaska include Eskimo, Eyak, Athabascan, Koniag, Tlingit and Aleut, and collectively constitute 30 percent of the area’s overall population.

The Navy acknowledges the harm and deaths the exercises pose to marine mammals and refers to the thousands of deaths or “takes” that are anticipated when these exercises are carried out. When it comes to fish, including salmon, it is clear from the Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that the extent of the damage and risk are largely unknown.

So what you can you do? Send in two public comments today!

This letter goes to the Alaskan officials
This letter goes to the Navy

Each public comment will make a difference! Our subsistence harvest and commercial fishing way of life depends on wild salmon coming home every year to a pristine ocean habitat.

Protest organizer Emily Stolarcyk of the Eyak Preservation Council celebrates the good turnout in her efforts to object to the Navy's plans to conduct war games in the Gulf of Alaska. Driving his fishing boat is James Mykland on the Exodus and Lloyd Montgomery (left).

Protest organizer Emily Stolarcyk of the Eyak Preservation Council celebrates the good turnout in her efforts to object to the Navy’s plans to conduct war games in the Gulf of Alaska. Driving his fishing boat is James Mykland on the Exodus and Lloyd Montgomery (left).

The group working tirelessly on this issue is the Eyak Preservation Council (EPC)- a grassroots, constituent-led advocacy direct-action non profit organization. EPC works for social and environmental justice by promoting initiatives and policy to preserve Indigenous and fishing cultures, salmon habitat and sustainable food systems.

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