Letter from Alaska's commercial fishermen pushes to protect oceans through Biden's 30x30 initiative

Aug 20, 2021

The letter says fishermen in Alaska are aptly positioned to contribute to conversations related to an executive order the Biden Administration introduced in January.

A Bristol Bay fisherman.
Credit Courtesy of Jeremy Rubingh

Jeremy Rubingh wants U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to visit Alaska’s fisheries.


Rubingh is a Bristol Bay fisherman, film producer and activist, and he is coordinating an effort with dozens of other fishermen to write a letter to Haaland, inviting her north. The letter is also addressed to the departments of agriculture and commerce, and their cooperating agencies.


They hope to talk about one of President Biden’s executive orders.


The letter explains why fishermen in Alaska are aptly positioned to contribute to conversations relating to an executive order the Biden Administration introduced in January.

“What the letter does is it invites Secretary Deb Haaland, who is in charge of it, to come visit Alaska and visit us in our fishing communities and hear from people and get our input in real time. Especially the input of Tribal concerns and sovereignty,” he said.

The executive order Rubingh and others want to give input on is also known as America the Beautiful. The administration describes it as an opportunity to build climate resiliency by protecting 30 percent of America’s landscapes by 2030.

Rubingh said the initiative aims to include stakeholders in the conversation, rather than imposing top-down policies. 


He believes fishermen are in a unique position to communicate their experiences, and he wants them to have a chance to tell Haaland why it’s important to protect Bristol Bay and other areas of Alaska.


“The letter we are organizing has dozens of Bristol Bay fishermen and is growing daily, as well as dozens of folks in the longlining community and organizations in both areas in southeast as well as Bristol Bay," Rubingh said. "It makes the point that this is our way of life and this is our living. And fishermen are the folks who are on the water and seeing these changes and bearing witness.”


America the Beautiful is outlined by eight principles, from honoring tribal sovereignty, to using science as a guide, to supporting stewardship efforts of private landowners and fishers. 


Melanie Brown is a fourth generation fisherman who grew up fishing in Naknek on her great-grandfather's set net site. She is also an organizer for SalmonState.  


Brown said America the Beautiful is a unique opportunity for the fishing community to engage in policy. 


“By working from the ground up instead of top down. Policies are normally created from the top down. This is a new way of introducing to the general populace that -- hey, if you have ideas or proposals that you want to bring in, bring them,” she said.



A set net in Bristol Bay.
Credit Courtesy of Jeremy Rubingh

Rubingh wants fishermen to start conversations about what long-term protections might look like and work with the industry, as well as local communities and policy makers. The letter suggests immediate actions that include protections for Bristol Bay and the Tongass National Forest. It specifically calls for the EPA to invoke Clean Water Act protections in Bristol Bay and to reinstate the roadless rule in the Tongass.

Rubingh hopes to have Secretary Haaland visit Alaska this fall to learn more about what’s at stake in Alaska’s fisheries. 

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