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
The EIS will analyze impacts of alternatives related to issuance of an incidental take statement (ITS) for species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) affected by salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska
NOAA Fisheries Seeks Comment on Proposed Issuance of Incidental Take Statement and Funding to State of Alaska for Southeast Alaska Salmon Fisheries
Public invited to comment on environmental, economic, and social impacts.
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the issuance of an Incidental Take Statement for salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska subject to the 2019 Pacific Salmon Treaty Agreement. The DEIS also addresses the funding to the State of Alaska to implement the 2019 PST Agreement. The public has 45 days to provide comments.
The Pacific Salmon Treaty provides a management framework for salmon fisheries in the United States and Canada, including salmon fisheries that occur in the ocean and inland waters and rivers flowing into these waters. Fisheries in federal and state waters off Southeast Alaska are managed consistent with the 2019 PST Agreement.
Compliance with the incidental take statement, if issued, would exempt participants in the Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries from the Endangered Species Act’s prohibition on take of threatened and endangered species.
In 2019, NOAA issued an Endangered Species Act Biological Opinion on two federal actions related to the Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries:
- Delegation of management authority over salmon fisheries in the exclusive economic zone in Southeast Alaska to the State of Alaska under the Fishery Management Plan for the Salmon Fisheries in the EEZ off Alaska.
- Federal funding through grants to the State of Alaska for the State’s management of commercial and sport salmon fisheries and transboundary river enhancement necessary to implementation of the 2019 PST Agreement.
The biological opinion included issuance of an incidental take statement that exempted take of listed species by Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries in compliance with the terms and conditions in the incidental take statement.
As the result of a lawsuit on the biological opinion, Wild Fish Conservancy v. Quan, the court found that the agency failed to conduct a National Environmental Policy Act analysis for the incidental take statement.
NOAA Fisheries initiated this DEIS to address the court’s finding. It analyzes the effects of a reasonable range of alternatives for the proposed issuance of a new incidental take statement. The alternatives also consider proposed funding to the State of Alaska for its management of commercial and sport salmon fisheries and transboundary river enhancement subject to the 2019 PST Agreement.
This DEIS analyzes impacts of three alternatives:
- Alternative 1: Status quo — NOAA Fisheries assumes that no litigation occurred and therefore the incidental take statement from the 2019 biological opinion remains valid, and funding through grants to the State of Alaska continues
- Alternative 2: NOAA Fisheries issues a new biological opinion and incidental take statement, and NOAA Fisheries continues to disburse funds through grants to the State of Alaska
- Alternative 3: No new incidental take statement is issued and funding to the State of Alaska is discontinued
The proposed action is Alternative 2, the issuance of a new biological opinion and incidental take statement, which is responsive to the court’s order, and continuation of funding to the State to implement the 2019 PST Agreement.
NOAA Fisheries is conducting a new section 7 consultation on the federal actions related to the Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries in order to address the deficiencies identified by the court. At the conclusion of consultation, NOAA Fisheries would issue a new biological opinion and incidental take statement if we conclude that the actions, and any associated incidental take, were not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any of the ESA-listed species and were not likely to destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat. A new biological opinion is expected to be completed by June 2024. If an incidental take statement is issued, the incidental take statement would go into effect upon signing of the new biological opinion by the NOAA Fisheries Official.
The court also concluded that NOAA Fisheries violated the National Environmental Protection Act 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 Prey Increase Program for Southern Resident Killer Whales page has more information on that project.
How to Comment
The public comment period is open for 45 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. Comments must be received no later than March 11, 2024.
Address comments to Gretchen Harrington, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region, NOAA Fisheries, Attn: Susan Meyer, and identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA-NMFS-2023-0152.
Comments may be submitted via:
- Electronic Submission: Via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov; docket # NOAA-NMFS-2023-0152
- Mail: P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668