Central to most Alaskan’s plates are salmon and other foods from the sea. It’s hard to visit Kachemak Bay without also enjoying fresh oysters or beer-battered fish. Halibut and salmon are common freezer staples all year long. It’s hard to imagine Alaska without this plentiful bounty. Given our high food costs, many Alaskan families supplement their pantries with natural food sources found throughout the Cook Inlet Watershed. Additionally, Alaska imports around 95% of its food, sending $2 billion outside every year. Supporting local fishers, along with seaweed and mariculture farmers, increases our region’s food security, creates jobs, and boosts the local economy.
As Alaskans, we are very privileged to have access to so much abundance and therefore we each hold some responsibility to protect what we love and value. The science is clear: climate change is here and now. Temperatures in Alaska have already risen 2.5 to 6-degrees Fahrenheit over the last 50 years. Though warmer winter temperatures in Alaska may sound appealing, many of the impacts are repelling: flooding, ocean acidification, decreased nutritional densities in foods, diminished water quality, higher water temperatures, and species die-off are all potential threats to our food systems and livelihoods.
Fishery health will drive Alaska’s future. By listening to longtime Alaskan fishermen and community elders, the message is clear: Alaska’s fisheries have changed, and not for the better. In 2020, federal managers closed the Pacific Cod fishery in Cook Inlet because of the “warm blob”–a phenomenon that will only become longer and appear more frequently with climate change. This summer, the Yukon salmon fishery crashed, causing many rural villages to rely on others for this coming winter. Crab populations in the Bering Sea are failing in part due to melting sea ice which could result in almost the entire fleet being out of work next season. Even in Bristol Bay, with record-breaking salmon runs, the fish are smaller than ever recorded. The trend of warming temperatures has residents worried about their future runs.
Recently we’ve all learned that the oil and gas industry has known that the reliance on carbon based fuels would result in catastrophic impacts from climate change since the 1960s. The industry is trading Alaska’s future for temporary gains. This is not just an environmental issue, but also a social justice issue. Climate change and food insecurities hit those that live closest to the land first. Indigenous tribes are experiencing the impacts of climate change with diminished traditional sea and land food sources, and may no longer be able to rely on fish runs that have sustained them for time immemorial. Generations of family fishermen may see their jobs disappear. Your young family member may never know the feeling of catching their first salmon. This is an assault on the Alaskan way of life.
Today, we are asking for your help to turn this story around: join Inletkeeper to oppose the proposed oil and gas lease sale in Lower Cook Inlet. Alaskans must decide if the oil industry’s short-term gains are worth the cost of our fisheries, our economies, and our culture.
Please ask the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to cancel Lease Sale 258 at tinyurl.com/leasesale258
If you’ve already signed, share it with a friend (even friends from Outside!) or on social media, or register to provide public comment at the upcoming hearings on:
November 16 (6:30 to 8:30 PM), 17 (2:00 to 4:00 PM), or 18 (6:30 to 8:30 PM).
Thank you for reading. We are able to do this work because of member support from concerned citizens like you. Please donate today to protect Cook Inlet for our future generations.