Metlakatla Tribal Fishery in Southeast Alaska Achieves MSC Certification

The Metlakatla Indian Community fishery located in tribal waters surrounding the Annette Islands Reserve (AIR) in Southeast Alaska has been awarded Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification by an independent, third-party certifier.  There are 12 Units of Certification covering Pink Salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), Chum Salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), and King Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), using three gear types, Gillnet, Seine, and Troll, reports with reference to MSC. 

"Our ancestors who came to Annette Island in 1887 were dedicated environmental stewards of the land and the sea and MSC certification confirms our commitment to preserve the legacy we inherited and manage the resource to sustain the fish stocks and our heritage for future Metlakatla generations," said Karl Cook Jr., a commercial fisherman and tribal member.

The Annette Islands Reserve was granted to a group of Tsimshian Indians originally from Metlakatla, British Columbia by the U.S. Congress in 1891.  Almost a quarter of a century later, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed a declaration into law that established the waters within 3,000 feet at mean low tide surrounding the islands to be tribally owned and managed.  Three decades later, in 1944, agreement was reached between the Metlakatla and U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs that established commercial fishing management practices.

The Annette Islands Reserve includes Annette, Ham, Walker, Lewis, Spire and Hemlock Islands south of Ketchikan, Alaska. The fishery is managed by the Metlakatla Tribal Council in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Only Metlakatla tribal members can obtain commercial fishing licenses.
About the Fishery

The fishery operates from May through October and pink salmon represents the majority of the harvest, at approximately 83%.  The harvest averaged 1.1 million salmon or approximately 3,000 Metric Tonnes over ten years and value averaged US$1.3 million.  The harvest is sold primarily to markets in Europe.

Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), the independent certifier that established the Annette Island fishery meets the rigorous MSC sustainability standard, included in the certification 22 improvement actions on the 12 Units of Certification.  The improvement actions provide the tribal community with tools and management strategies with which to further improve the fishery and salmon stocks. The conditions include:

-Establishing management targets to ensure the diversity and reproductive capacity of AIR populations of coho salmon;

-Demonstrating a re-building strategy is in place that ensures that harvest of other stocks does not negatively affect the potential for recovery of depleted local sockeye salmon populations;

-Initiating sampling programs to obtain sufficient information to estimate the significance of enhanced fish to the status and diversity of wild stocks in the area; and,

-Establishing a scientifically defensible monitoring and reporting system for Endangered, Threatened, Protected (ETP) species.
What the fishery says

"MSC certification and the fishery improvements over time that will result from the conditions contained in certification will send a powerful message to the local community, tribal members, Alaska neighbors and European markets that purchase our seafood that the Metlakatla Indian Community is committed to sustainable fishing practices for this and future generations," said Mayor Arthur G. Fawcett.
What the MSC says

Kerry Coughlin, MSC's regional director, Americas, said: "The certification of the Annette Islands Reserve is a story of cultural heritage spanning two centuries and we are proud to be part of the story and the legacy that will be passed on to future Metlakatla generations."  Coughlin added, "The responsible management demonstrated by the tribe will help sustain the fishery and Metlakatla community for generations to come."

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