Laws for the SEA
A weekly report on fisheries issues before the Alaska Legislature
VOLUME 13 #15 APRIL 30, 2007 17 DAYS TO ADJOURNMENT
ANGLERS ANNOUNCES PLANS TO TAKE OVER COOK INLET SALMON
(Used by permission of the author)
The heads of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association discussed plans to takeover the Cook Inlet salmon
fisheries with a shift in harvest priorities that would limit the commercial catch to whatever remains after all other user
groups, including tourists, catch their limits. The chairman of the committee that heard their testimony said he plans to
bring Cook Inlet salmon allocation before the legislature next year.
"The public should have the first right to allocation for the fisheries they need. Your family, my family, people that
live here should have the amount of fish they need for their own needs, and the tourists should. Then whatever is surplus to
our needs could be commercially harvested," said Bob Penney, maven of the Kenai Peninsula sport charter industry and a
board member of KRSA.
"That's the way the fishery has got to be changed and it's going to be coming down to see you in the next few
years in some manner because the public is going to want to see that done," Penney said at an April 24 hearing before the
House Special Committee on Economic Trade and Tourism.
"You talked a lot about the Cook Inlet area, but I think the comments could probably pertain statewide," said Rep.
Mark Neuman (R-Big Lake), chairman of the committee, in response to Penney's comments.
Despite the legislature's long aversion to involving itself in fisheries allocation, Neuman, in his third year in the
House, said he's taking the plunge.
"It is this chair's intention to go back and look at quotas. Go back a little bit and look at fishing quotas. Did they
work like they were supposed to and how were they supposed to work?' Neuman said earlier in the hearing. Referring to
discussions "in different fishing communities and boards" on Cook Inlet allocation, Neuman added, "Next year this body
needs to take a look at that too, at the legislative level and I think that would be appropriate. Forewarned."
Penney, who helped organize the 1996 "Fairness In Salmon Harvest" (FISH) initiative petition said following
the hearing that a proposal submitted to the Board of Fisheries for the coming winter's Cook Inlet meeting cycle asks for a
shift in harvest priorities there to put commercial fishing at the bottom of the list.
"If the board doesn't pass this, this is going to become a public issue in the next three to five years while I'm still
on this earth. We're going to see that take place and be put to a vote of the people in some way," Penney said.
Jim Marcotte, Fish Board executive director, said KRSA submitted 14 proposals, including one "that seeks to
limit the department's emergency order authority on closing the windows." April 10 was the deadline for submission of
proposals, which will be published for public review in May.
The legislative hearing was posted as a review of the economic value of sport fishing and began with calls from a
string of KRSA board members and staff for a new, comprehensive state study on the value of charter fishing. Over the
course of an hour it morphed into a push for reallocation of the Cook Inlet salmon harvest.
Following the hearing Talkeetna charter fishing business operator Bob Meals acknowledged that the economic
data is necessary to support his industry's goal of reallocating the fishery.
"It's a proper reallocation of a resource that's been misallocated for a number of years ... That's called the free
market. That's exactly the way it should be," Meals said. After working in the charter business for 25 years, Meals said his
operation has developed to the point where he can make a living working only during the summer fishing season.
Wasilla fishing guide Bruce Knowles, who was also a sponsor of the FISH initiative, called for a new
classification that would eliminate the distinction between sport, subsistence and personal use.
"The average Alaskan is called a sport fisherman. In reality they are consumptive users and they are beat about the
head and shoulders because they go out there and harvest fish with a rod and reel," Knowles said. "This way they have
managed to say they don't have to have those fish, they're out there enjoying themselves," Knowles added, without
specifying who "they" are.
Proposed for the 1996 general election ballot, the FISH initiative would have given users other than commercial harvesting
a priority for five percent of statewide salmon harvests, but allowed the noncommercial users to take more than five percent
in any given area as long as they stayed below the statewide cap. An Alaska Supreme Court decision that fish stocks could
not be allocated by initiative petition knocked it off the ballot.
Laws for the SEA is written and published by Bob Tkacz at Juneau, Alaska. All rights reserved. Contents
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All contents ©Copyright 2007 Robert P. Tkacz
It's plain from the above and much, much more that Kenai River Sportfishing Association and Bob Penny have long sought the undoing of Cook Inlet's gill-net industry in their quest for more second-run Kenai kings and more coho for the [commercially-oriented] sportfishery.
Some questions should Penny/KRSA get their way:
1) Who at present is not getting what they need of Cook Inlet salmon?
2) Without an efficient gill-net industry, how will ADF&G manage Cook Inlet salmon for [maximum] sustained yield to the benefit of all Alaskans, not just for a select few who want a few more kings and coho?
3) How much more pressure can the Kenai River and its ecosystem stand? How much more can resident lifestyle stand?
4) Do we wish to see the area’s economic base further restricted to and dependent on tourist-oriented, commercial sportfishing, which is vulnerable to the economic stability of baby-boomer nest eggs?