On Tuesday, Jan. 25, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), reintroduced the Salmon Focused Investments in Sustainable Habitats Act. The bill, introduced first in October 2019, seeks to identify, restore, and protect the most outstanding salmon rivers and watersheds in America, and to ensure funding needed to sustain thriving salmon populations.

Habitat degradation, pollution, dams, overharvesting, climate change, and other factors have caused salmon populations to decline across the country, severely impacting Tribes, fishermen, and the communities that depend on them, according to a release from Huffman.

“The ecological, cultural, and economic importance of salmon is hard to overstate; they support tens of thousands of jobs, sustain fishing communities, generate billions of dollars in economic activity, and provide a food source for millions of people. They also hold immense cultural significance for Tribes, like many in my district, who have fished for salmon since time immemorial,” said Huffman, chair of the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife and Co-Chair of the Congressional Wild Salmon Caucus.

Stakeholders in Bristol Bay and Southeast Alaska have been fighting for salmon habitat protections from Pebble Mine and logging in the Tongass National Forest.

“Investing in the restoration and protection of our country's most abundant salmon watersheds is one of the most important things that we can do to help ensure that our largest remaining wild salmon runs, like Alaska's Bristol Bay and Southeast Alaska’s transboundary rivers, continue to nourish local Indigenous people, provide thousands of renewable jobs, and supply hundreds of millions of pounds of sustainable wild seafood,” said Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState.

The act would:

  • Identify the core centers of salmon abundance, productivity, and diversity as Salmon Conservation Areas, and identify areas of particularly pristine quality as Salmon Strongholds.
  • Build on existing analysis, such as that used in Essential Fish Habitat.
  • Ensure actions of the federal government do not undermine the abundance of these areas.
  • Authorize funding for a grant program focused on restoration and conservation of Salmon Conservation Areas and Salmon Strongholds.
  • Support current federal programs already focused on restoring and maintaining healthy watersheds.

“The Salmon FISH Act will identify critical centers of salmon abundance to ensure these areas receive the protection, support, and funding they need to continue to sustain the healthiest remaining salmon populations,” Huffman said.

Original cosponsors included Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.).

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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