NOAA starts review process to list Alaska Chinooks as threatened or endangered


NOAA Fisheries on Thursday announced a 90-day finding on a petition to list Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon “or any evolutionarily significant unit that may exist in the petitioned area, as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act and to designate critical habitat concurrent with the listing.”

The listing proposal comes after pressure from the Wild Fish Conservancy in Seattle, which filed a petition in January calling for federal protection of Alaska Chinook.

“For decades, scientists have been sounding the alarm that Alaska’s Chinook are in dire trouble,” said Emma Helverson, executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy. “Despite existing management plans and years of efforts by the state of Alaska, Chinook salmon continue to decline in abundance, size, diversity, and spatial structure throughout the state. Through this action, we are asking the federal government to undertake a formal status review and implement protections warranted under the Endangered Species Act, including designating critical habitat protections, to ensure the survival of these iconic fish.”

The proposed safeguards would increase protection for imperiled Chinook populations from the Canadian border north to the Aleutian Islands, including watersheds of Southeast, Cook Inlet, and Southcentral Alaska. In other words, most of the Alaska Chinook salmon.

NOAA said, “We find that the petition, viewed in the context of information readily available in our files, presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. Therefore, we are commencing a review of the status of Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon to determine whether listing under the ESA is warranted. To ensure that the status review is comprehensive, we are soliciting scientific and commercial information regarding this species from any interested party.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski released a statement in response:

“Alaska’s king salmon need help, but an ESA listing based on a flawed petition from a Seattle-based environmental activist group is the wrong way to go. Should NMFS determine that Alaska’s Chinook be listed after conducting their 12-month review, it would be nearly impossible for king salmon from the Gulf of Alaska to be caught for commercial and recreational purposes, and perhaps even subsistence. Even this action on the 90-day finding will have a dangerous chilling effect on investment in our fishing industry at a time when they can least afford it.”

“Incredibly, NOAA is moving ahead even after finding that the Wild Fish Conservancy’s petition ‘contained numerous factual errors, omissions, incomplete references, and unsupported assertions and conclusions.’ As we fight to save our salmon and salmon fisheries alike, we need to rely on the best available science, instead of half-baked petitions intended to get conservation groups a foot in the door to attack our fisheries and resource development.”

In response to a petition to list Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, NOAA Fisheries has found that listing may be warranted. We filed a positive 90-day finding in the Federal Register, which is a threshold determination based mainly on the contents of the petition itself. It triggers a more in-depth review to determine whether listing is warranted.

The full statement from NOAA reads:

On January 11, 2024, we received a petition from the Wild Fish Conservancy to delineate and list one or more evolutionarily significant units of Chinook salmon in southern Alaska as threatened or endangered. It also requested that we designate critical habitat concurrently with the listing.

According to the Conservancy, the petition “encompasses all Chinook populations that enter the marine environment of the Gulf of Alaska.” It “includes all populations on the southern side of the Aleutian Peninsula, Cook Inlet, and the coast of Alaska south of Cook Inlet to the southern end of the Alaska/British Columbia border.”

We interpret the request as asking us to consider populations of Chinook salmon on:

  • Southern side of the Alaska Peninsula, including Kodiak Island, Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound
  • Gulf of Alaska coastline
  • Inside waters of Southeast Alaska to the United States/Canada border

The Endangered Species Act requires the Secretary of Commerce make a finding within 90 days on whether a petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating the petitioned action may be warranted.

The 90-Day Finding

To make a 90-day finding on a petition to list a species, we evaluate whether it presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating the species may be either threatened or endangered. At this stage, we do not conduct additional research, and we do not solicit information from outside parties to help us evaluate the petition.

We have reviewed the petition, the literature cited in the petition, and other literature and information available in our files prior to receipt of the petition. We found that the information present in the petition contained numerous factual errors, omissions, incomplete references, and unsupported assertions and conclusions. Still, we considered missed escapement goals in recent years for many stocks in the petitioned area, and evidence of decreasing size and age at maturity. We concluded that the petition contained enough information for a reasonable person to conclude that the petitioned action may be warranted.

With the positive 90-day finding, we are commencing a review of the status of Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon to determine whether listing is warranted. We will convene a status review team of federal scientists to begin an in-depth review of the species’ current status and extinction risk. We will include input from non-federal experts by inviting them to participate as guest consultants to the team as part of a broad-based gathering of information.

“The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has tremendous expertise in salmon biology and management in Alaska,” said NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Administrator Jon Kurland. “In particular, we will seek technical assistance from our state partners on Chinook biology, genetics, and relevant risk factors.”

The status review team will collect and analyze the best available scientific and commercial information on the species to evaluate its current status and extinction risk, including:

  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Abundance and population trends
  • Traditional Knowledge
  • Threats to the species 

The team will develop a status review report that will undergo peer review, and peer reviewer comments will be made publicly available.

Once the status review is complete, we must publish a finding as to whether the petitioned action is warranted within 12 months of receipt of the petition. The finding at the 12-month stage is based on a more thorough review of the available information; a positive 90-day finding does not prejudge the outcome of the status review.

We are dedicating personnel and resources towards a timely completion. We expect significant challenges given the vast geographical extent of the petitioned area. There is also potential for numerous distinct populations within that area that will each require a separate analysis of its status and trends. 

After completing the status review and considering ongoing conservation efforts, we will determine whether a listing is warranted and publish the finding in the Federal Register

If we determine that a listing of one or more evolutionarily significant units is warranted, we will seek public comments on the proposed listing. We will host public hearings and engage with Tribes to provide multiple opportunities for public engagement and input to inform our final listing decision.

How to Comment

To ensure that our status review is informed by the best available scientific and commercial data, we are opening a 60-day public comment period to solicit information on Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon. Submit relevant data and information, identified by “Gulf of Alaska Chinook salmon petition” or by the docket number, NOAA-NMFS-2024-0042, by one of the following methods: 

  • Electronic submissions: via the Federal eRulemaking Portal
  • Mail to: Anne Marie Eich, Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, Alaska Region NOAA Fisheries. Attn. Susan Meyer, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802

Comments must be received on or before July 23, 2024. 

NOAA Fisheries will post all information received on This generally means that we will post any personal information that is provided.


  1. Southeast Alaska King Salmon numbers declined significantly in 2014 after British Columbia’s Mount Polley Mine Catastrophic Earthen Dam Breach that sent (forever contamination) Metallic Toxins into Mount Polley Lake, Quesnel Lake, then down stream dumping 26 million cubic meters of ore slurry into Southeast Alaska Tide waters. Can this be proven?, Perhaps not, but the disaster is the likely cause of the sharp salmon decline.

  2. On the Susitna drainage we have not be able to catch Kings for the last 11 years. Why because of the Commercial fishermen intercepting Kings coming up the Cook Inlet. Simple as that. Commercial fishermen cannot blame Sport fishermen on the Susitna drainage for the demise of the Kings. On the Kenai River they need to Ban all Commercial Fishing Guides. Catch and Release is the most shortsighted greedy proposal of all time.
    Common thread of all the people who make money off the Kings, they could give a dam about the welfare of the Kings. For The rest of us who want a King for dinner, well tough luck. So I say Save the Cook Inlet Kings and ban all of the people making a buck off the destruction of the most iconic fish in Cook Inlet.

  3. One more stab to the guts of Alaska and Alaskans. This will destroy our entire salmon industry. And that is the clear intention. Russia and China will be the world supply of salmon. Bottom fish is next. We can’t get rid of this bastard and chief fast enough.

  4. And after that, 60 day period- a perfunctory requirement only to satisfy the statue, it will be a done deal. There is no other for a governmental agency to exist lest they do not demonstrate and enforce edicts. Power, not science is the objective. Trust that this is a segment of the overall objective of controlling through a “One World” government. Why do you think these same environmental folks desire to confiscated private fire arms?
    Until they do, actions such as this keeps them occupied in the continuing process of using governmental agencies to stop all economic efforts. So many clues as to what is happening and the stink of it is these folks are not hiding the intent and goal, they are telling you what they are about.
    Glad to be an old fart.

    • The good news for our grand and great-grandchildren is the “One World” government controlled and enforced by and through our elite class using the US rules based system has failed. The bad news is we commoner Americans (and our European vassals) are going to go through an economic and societal breakdown lasting a generation or two. We will envy the living standards of the depression in the 1930s compared to the era we are entering.

  5. Endangered species act, what does one have to do to qualify for this list? Being an average white working 67 year old man in this day an age but i can’t say that, it would be racist…..

    • Only 5% of the planet’s population are white men. Somehow we take a beating constantly. Yes we are and endangered species. The other 95% call us racist every day.

  6. Long past time for commfish to put up or shut up. You guys spent decades coming for every single other Alaskan who put a hook or net in the water. Now your time is here. And nobody is gonna step up to defend you.

    First they came for the kenai guides, and I did not speak out, for I was not a kenai guide
    Then they came for the MatSu guides, and I did not speak out, for I was not a MatSu guide
    Then they came for the dipnetters, and I did not speak out, for I was not a dipnetter
    Then they came for the sport fishermen, and I did not speak out, for I was not a sport fishermen
    Then they came for commfish, and there was nobody left to speak for commfish

    Good luck to UCIDA and the PWS hatcheries. You guys created this mess and refused to help solve it. Now the greens are coming for you. Sucks to be you. Cheers –

  7. If considering “missed escapement goals in recent years for many stocks in the petitioned area, and evidence of decreasing size and age at maturity” were actually what drove this review and based upon a “petition [that] contained numerous factual errors, omissions, incomplete references, and unsupported assertions and conclusions” then this isn’t a scientific fact finding mission. Escapement goals are a financial consideration of a common resource, they are set in place as a measure of how many fish can be taken for commercial purposes, they are not a measurement of a critically imperiled species that is in danger of going extinct. Decreasing size and age at maturity is also not a measurement of a critically imperiled species that is in danger of going extinct. The fact that the petition is fundamentally flawed with filled with incorrect information, and yet it is allowed to go forward speaks volumes about the process being corrupted.

  8. Follow the money and the agenda. Wild Fish Conservancy – another vegan cult doing the bidding of the destroy America globalist agenda.

  9. We have to resist, by all means necessary, this attempt by liberal progressive Lower 48 do-gooders to control Alaska natural resources.
    Senator Sullivan, and others, who have given the soul of Alaska to the Feds for $’s – should be ashamed.
    Governor it’s time to tell the Feds to go to hell.
    Read the book, “The Snowflake Rebellion”.
    It is past time to reclaim our rights to our natural resources extraction.
    The Seattle based commercial fisherman – your time is up raping our waters.
    But in the end, they will limit the resident fisherman opportunities – while allowing Seattle based operators to rape our oceans via bycatch.

  10. NOAA is late to the party again.
    This fishery like others are way overfished period.
    You don’t need a collage degree and years of data to see what’s happening.
    Cut the commercial fishery by 75% for a start.

    • When you say commercial fishery, to which do you refer? The single biggest impact to all species are the Pollock trawlers who kill off (waste) 1000’s of tons of “by catch” every year. This has been the issue for years. A change in process by the trawlers would dramatically reduce the by catch, but they have refused to do so voluntarily and because there is so much money involve our corrupt political state won’t force the change.

  11. It’s the trawl industry, always was, always has been. They have been in bed with the NMFS since day one. Follow the money. WACDA is a scam, they played both sides for the benefit of a few. The so called scientists? Players.

  12. Resource Development in Alaska takes another hit.
    … Mining
    … Timber
    … Fishing
    … Oil & Gas
    How many more hits to the lifeblood of Alaska (ie: Resource Development) will it take to completely kill-off opportunity in Alaska?
    Meanwhile, our Senators and Rep are focused on other important endeavors, such as … sending more Taxpayer money to Ukraine, drawing down the SPR, student loan forgiveness, importing more oil from Venezuela, importing more illegal aliens (an invasion of mostly men of fighting age), locking up access to Resource Development, a continuous retreat from key critical military bases, etc.

    Dan, Lisa, Mary … What exactly are you three doing to make life better for Alaskans? (FYI – This is not a trick question!)

    • Our senators supporting Deb Haalands appointment has a the biggest boom to State oil and gas development on the NorthSlope in 40 years . Literally the Biden administration has driven sustained high oil prices and his crew has forced capital to State oil resources on NorthSlope . Most folks commenting have no idea that this is going on . More work on the NorthSlope the last six months than anytime in 40 years . Jobs go unfilled and project are delayed because of it .

      I don’t agree with our two US Senators supporting her nomination as she shut down all drilling on Federal lands on the slope . Biden administration has really limited the size and scope of the Willow project . However in the next 48 months nearly 320,000 barrels of additional oil per day will be produced from the Pikka .

      One concern is that the Pikka was discovered 12-15 years ago and has yet to produce a drop of oil . That’s a huge problem for state oil and gas regulators .

      Keep in mind also that the Carlyle Group will not loan capital for NorthSlope oil extraction ! That right Ellie , Daddy’s group will not loan money for producing oil and gas off of slope while you push for him to invest the permanent fund ( the people money ) ! Jerks !

      • It’s definitely booming here on the N-Slope w/ Willow & Pikka! We need to procure more Camp capacity as bedspace is woefully lacking. Pikka will definitely come online and produce a lot of oil, making a significant contribution to TAPS. Willow truely needs to expand beyond the two Drill Sites they’ve been allowed // permitted to construct.
        I’m not sure if infrastructure development investment on the N-Slope fits within the CG parameters, you’ll have to ask Dave & Ellie. I’m guessing that they need to see more favorable conditions thru multiple future Administrations. Currently, it’s a chaotic forecast, primarily due to the current administration continued assault of the O&G Industry, the delusional // cult-like public opinion around climate change, oppressive regulatory environment and the bureaucratic morass. Unfortunately – Sadly, I think we need to fall as a society before common sense takes root before we change minds and hearts, opening up ANWR and NPR-A to further O&G Development.
        Hopefully, we as a society come to our senses quickly(!), producing our own resources within our own borders, putting Americans to work, offering economic benefits to Americans and American Communities.

  13. We need to start looking at the correlation of events compared to the chinook decline. Have trawler permits increased to the extent that their increase is directly proportional to the decline in kings. How about the voracious pink salmon that are being released by the trillions that may be out competing the kings. These greedy hatcheries are doing zero, zilch to increase the sardine, herring, anchovy, and squid populations which are some of the primary food sources for the kings. The ocean has a limited carrying capacity as do all living systems. Two people might be able to survive on two acres by growing crops, raising chickens, etc. but that land couldn’t support ten people. Oceans are no different. The government has screwed this up by allowing too many permits to both of these users but they are too bought out to cancel them now without full scale revolt.

  14. Cook Inlet set net and drift net salmon permit holders are the primary reason for the low abundance of Chinook in Cook Inlet. They have been killing far more Chinook than reported. Large numbers of Chinook get tangled up in the sockeye nets and drop out of the nets dead. And in many documented cases set net fishers catch large numbers of Chinook and take them home or to black markets and never report them. There are pictures of them showing off their Chinook Catch. The ADF&G has known about this for decades yet has never had the will and probably insufficient resources to stop the gill net fleet from this illegal activity.
    Chinook Salmon are the State Fish and should be saved. No matter that it might eliminate the salmon gill net fishery in Upper Cook Inlet for a few years.
    Sport fishing while easier to regulate has had its role in the low abundance as well. Not near to the extent of the commercial fisheries but impactive none the less.
    Read “ King of Fish”. Oregon had the largest Runs of Chinook anywhere. Yet because of poor management and greed this area was literally fished out and has never returned except for a few hatchery fish. The tipping point was reached and the greatest Chinook runs in the world are no more. That is about to happen in Alaska if no action is taken.

  15. The end goal is to eliminate US fisheries. Then the Chinese and Russian fleets will take over and we will import 100% of our fish to go along with our imported beef and poultry.

  16. NOAA & the National Marine Fishery Service already know the cause of King Salmon declines in Alaska. This is just window dressing. We need to kick the Seattle based factory trawl fleet the hell out of Alaska. Currently they have an annual King Salmon bycatch allowance of 75,000 fish, but we can only guess what their real numbers are. They are slowly but surely destroying Alaska’s subsistence, sport and local small boat commercial fisheries. The king crab fishery in the Bering Sea was their latest victim.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.