Posted by admin on May 18th, 2015
Giant Flotilla Navy Protest in Cordova
Saturday, May 16th 2015 over 100 boats and hundreds of onlookers joined in a peaceful protest to demonstrate against the Navy's planned training activities in the Gulf of Alaska scheduled to start this June.
Starting June 15th, the Navy wants to conduct a training exercise called ‘Northern Edge’ in the Gulf of Alaska, very close to the South Central Alaskan coastline. This combined training exercise uses dangerous sonar and weapons in what the Navy calls ‘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) as they make their way towards Prince William Sound and beyond.
Watch this presentation from EPC's Program Manger, Emily, to Learn more about these trainings.
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 of essential habitat areas.
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 sustenance, 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 “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.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) disagrees with the Navy’s findings of no significant impact as far as fish are concerned. In 2011 the NMFS issued four conservation recommendations to avoid, minimize, mitigate, or otherwise offset adverse effects to EFH located within the Gulf of Alaska Temporary Maritime Activities Area (TMAA). Although the recommendations are non-binding, the Navy is supposed to consider the public interest. One of the recommendations was for the Navy to develop a fish mortality reporting plan. Measureable mortalities or injured fish in areas of Navy activities would be sent to NMFS. The Navy’s response was inconsistent with the recommendation and even went so far as to state the reporting the number of fish killed during their activities would “not provide much, if any, valuable data.” (source)
Alaskan’s have cause for great concern. The aftermath of the Navy’s planned 2015 “war games” would leave behind toxic-debris causing irrevocable damage to marine mammals, sea birds, fish, and their habitats. Marine life, including all five species of Pacific Salmon, would not only be harmed by the initial explosions but from the sonar and the chemicals in the expended and hazardous materials left over. It should be noted that the Navy has no plan to mitigate these negative effects. They state repeatedly in their EIS that they don’t foresee any negative effects of these trainings. Even though these trainings take place in Essential Fish Habitat for a multitude of species, including salmon. Juvenile and maturing adult king, sockeye, pink, chum and silver salmon live year round in the areas where the Navy is going to train.
The Eyak Preservation Council encourages all readers to review the Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement and see for themselves the scope that is planned for these expanded military exercises.
These risks threaten the cultural freedoms and economic livelihoods of Indigenous peoples that depend on these animals today and have for thousands of years and our subsistence harvest and commercial fisheries. Commercial fishing is the largest private sector in Alaska, providing some 80,000 jobs.
In reference to the use of sonar the EIS states: “No studies have established effects of cumulative exposure of fish to any type of sound or have determined whether subtle and long-term effects on behavior or physiology could have an impact upon survival of fish populations.”
On May 6th 2015, the City Council of Cordova passed a resolution to formally oppose the Navy’s training exercises or “Northern Edge ‘15” in the Gulf of Alaska. The City of Cordova finds no scientific information or traditional knowledge demonstrating that the training activities can take place without negatively affecting salmon, whale, bird and other marine habitats.
What can you do to help??
The Eyak Preservation Council has initiated a letter writing campaign to members of the Alaskan Legislature and the Navy officials in charge of the “Northern Edge” military training exercise. Send your letter today.
The People are asking the State of Alaska to postpone these trainings and to conduct its own Environmental Assessment regarding how these trainings will affect salmon, a State managed species. The People are asking the Navy not to use live ordnance or sonar in the TMAA because of the potential adverse effects to subsistence and commercial fisheries and our thriving communities in the Gulf of Alaska.
Our subsistence and commercial fishing way of life depends on wild salmon coming home every year and a pristine ocean habitat.