SPORT VS. COMMERCIAL: Legislators want more salmon for northern Inlet.
By WESLEY LOY
Published: April 7th, 2008 12:01 AM
Last Modified: April 7th, 2008 08:50 AM
JUNEAU -- Mat-Su legislators who say people in their area are getting shortchanged on salmon are pushing measures that could revolutionize fishery management in Cook Inlet, the state's most popular fishing hole.
The lawmakers have rolled out a package of legislation to tilt the balance of power in the Inlet from commercial fishermen to sport anglers and other users. And with a week left in the legislative session, they're hoping to land something big.
"What you're seeing is a manifestation of the frustration," said Chugiak Republican Rep. Bill Stoltze, who represents a chunk of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
People in Mat-Su, the state's fastest growing region, are worried salmon numbers are dwindling in the Susitna River and other drainages and they want changes now, Stoltze said.
He along with Senate President Lyda Green, R-Wasilla, and other Mat-Su lawmakers unveiled a trio of actions this session:
• Language in next year's state budget would close down the Department of Fish and Game commercial and sportfish management office in Soldotna and move the staff to Anchorage, the state's population cen- ter. Backers suggest the managers are too close to commercial fishing interests in Soldotna.
• Green introduced Senate Bill 284 to transform the makeup of the Board of Fisheries, which regulates commercial and sport salmon catches. The bill would change the board from seven to nine members, with six seats reserved for sport, dipnet and subsistence users and three for commercial fishing interests.
• Resolutions are nearing a vote in the Senate and House to create a Cook Inlet Salmon Task Force, to be composed of 10 legislators appointed by Green and House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez. The task force would look at how to boost salmon returns to the Inlet's northern reaches -- that is, the Mat-Su region -- and would explore a buyout of commercial fishermen.
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