Concerns over bycatch of salmon, halibut and crab in the Bering Sea are dominating fishery discussions among all Alaska user groups.
Former senator Ted Stevens pounded tables in a rage and called bycatch “wanton waste” saying, “If this was occurring with our game resources, these people would be thrown in jail.”
But Alaska’s current crop of elected officials and those running for office have remained silent on the issue.
Governor Mike Dunleavy is so far the only one to share thoughts on The Alaska Outdoor Podcast with Caleb Martin, saying bycatch is “on the front burner” with his administration.
“We need to get some answers so we can better understand this and better respond to what’s happening. But it’s certainly a serious issue that is getting our full attention.”
Dunleavy said a whole host of reasons need to be considered far beyond the Bering Sea. 13
“I mean, people have come up, for example, with ideas on some of the fishing issues in South Central Alaska or other parts of Alaska that it could be pike, it could be beaver dams. It could be, for example, in the Mat-Su, it could be culverts, it could be bycatch. It could be changes in the temperature in the water, it could be the changes in the food supply in the oceans, it could be other types of high seas water issues or quality issues, feed issues. And so I think we have to look at everything to really approach this from a scientific perspective.”
The podcaster pointed out that Canada took tough regulatory steps to reduce bycatch by 90% in a single year. Might Alaska do the same?
“So that’s been discussed, as well as a whole host of other issues. Because, again, we want to make sure that we’re not missing anything as we go through these studies and we research these issues. We want to make sure that we don’t overlook something but you know, bycatch is something that’s certainly being discussed.”
Martin asked if the State of Alaska commented on reducing Bering Sea halibut bycatch by the October 25 deadline.
“I have no doubt that our fish folks, starting with our commissioner and the individuals that work for the State of Alaska in our Fish and Game department will be having discussions and comments on the issue.”