Subject Line: NOAA Fisheries seeks public comment on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the issuance of an Incidental Take Statement under the Endangered Species Act for salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska subject to the 2019 Pacific Salmon Treaty Agreement and funding to the State of Alaska to implement the 2019 Pacific Salmon Treaty Agreement.
On Thursday, January 25, NOAA Fisheries will file in the Federal Register a Notice of Availability of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the issuance of an Incidental Take Statement (ITS) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska subject to the 2019 Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST) Agreement and for the funding to the State of Alaska to implement the 2019 PST Agreement. We are seeking public comment for 45 days from publication of the DEIS in the Federal Register.
Fisheries in Federal and state waters off Southeast Alaska are managed consistent with the 2019 PST Agreement.
Under a 2019 Biological Opinion (BiOp), NOAA Fisheries previously issued an ITS that exempted take of ESA-listed species by Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries subject to the 2019 PST Agreement. As the result of a lawsuit on the 2019 BiOp, the court concluded that the agency failed to conduct a National Environmental Policy Act analysis for the ITS.
NOAA Fisheries initiated this DEIS to address the court’s finding. The DEIS analyzes the effects of a reasonable range of alternatives for the proposed issuance of a new ITS. Also considered in the alternatives is proposed funding to the State of Alaska for the State’s management of commercial and sport salmon fisheries and transboundary river enhancement necessary for implementation of the 2019 PST Agreement.
The DEIS analyzes impacts of three alternatives related to the proposed issuance of an ITS and the proposed continuation of funding to the State of Alaska. The proposed action is Alternative 2, the issuance of a new BiOp and ITS, which is responsive to the Court’s order, and continuation of funding to the State of Alaska to implement the 2019 PST Agreement.
Compliance with the ITS, if issued, would exempt participants in the Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries from the ESA’s prohibition on take of threatened and endangered species.
NOAA Fisheries issues an ITS when we conclude that an action and associated incidental take of ESA-listed species would not violate ESA Section 7. A new ITS would be based on the analysis in the new BiOp, and would only be issued if NOAA Fisheries concluded that the amount or extent of incidental take, coupled with other effects of the proposed actions, is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any ESA-listed species. More information can be found at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/document/environmental-impact-statement-issuance-incidental-take-statement-salmon.
The court also concluded that NOAA Fisheries violated NEPA by funding the prey increase program without preparing a NEPA analysis. NOAA Fisheries prepared a programmatic EIS to address funding the prey increase program. The following website has more information on that project: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/review-prey-increase-program-southern-resident-killer-whales.
The public comment period on the Southeast Alaska DEIS is open for 45 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. Comments on the DEIS must be received no later than March 11, 2024.