Sitka fish and game committee speaks out about climate change

Members of the Sitka Advisory Committee expressed concern that climate change is impacting habitat for fish and game resources that commercial, sport and subsistence users rely on. (Photo by Erin McKinstry/KCAW)

Sitka’s local fish and game advisory committee is speaking out again about climate change and its impacts on commercial, sport and subsistence activities.

When the group met on Wednesday, they signed off on a letter to other advisory committees around Alaska urging them to take action. Last November, the group unanimously passed a climate emergency resolution, and in February, they were part of an effort that unsuccessfully petitioned the city assembly to do the same.

The city has since formed a task force to address climate change locally.

Member Stacey Wayne who holds the shellfish seat, said at the meeting that part of the Sitka advisory committee’s job is to advise others on wildlife conservation and use, including matters related to habitat.

“We’re fighting as user groups to have fish to fish, and our seasons are collapsing and our stocks are collapsing, and all of these are related to climate change,” Wayne said. “And so our job is to preserve opportunities to fish and hunt for the community.”

Support for the letter was almost unanimous, but member Luke Bastian, who holds the guide seat, did have some concerns.

“I think there’s unforeseen consequences there, and I don’t know if it actually gains us anything,” he said.

Wayne and others disagreed, saying that calling on other advisory committees to take action could have a tangible impact.

“Maybe with many voices pressuring local governments to become louder in support of stopping climate change and taking actions at the local level, there can be an impact to help preserve and protect the habitat for the species that we’re supposed to be protecting,” she said.

The committee also signed off on a letter opposing the decision to reverse the Roadless Rule in the Tongass National Forest and filled or renewed positions on the trapping, processing, alternate and sport fishing seats.

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