Fish Radio

Personal use priority advanced by AK lawmakers

March 24, 2015  

 This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch –A personal use priority for salmon gains favor from Alaska lawmakers. More after this —

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 Seven times is the charm for building momentum on a measure that aims to give personal use  fisheries, a priority over commercial and sport users. As it stands now, the three fisheries all are on equal footing in the eyes and actions of state managers.

 The priority shift has been introduced during each of the last seven legislative sessions by (now) Senator Bill Stoltze of Chugiak, but it has never made it past a first hearing – until now.

 The measure – SB 42- is dubiously dubbed “The Alaskans-First Fishing Act” and it targets salmon, without saying so directly. The Act “directs the Board of Fisheries to place restrictions on sport and commercial fisheries before putting restrictions on personal use fisheries when the harvest of a stock or species is limited to achieve an escapement goal.”

 Senator Stoltz said that the Board of Fisheries would still hold authority to set fish allocations, and called a personal use preference “an additional tool for managers.”

 The issue is driven primarily by the increasing salmon demands of users at the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers, and the popular Chitina dipnet fishery at Copper River, the favorite of Fairbanks salmon lovers. In testimony last week, lawmakers said personal use fisheries “need more protections from commercial fishermen.”

 Sen. John Coghill of North Pole stated that he is “more sympathetic to those in streams who see commercial fishermen taking tonnage where we’re restricted to poundage.”

 The PU priority has gotten a friendly reception by lawmakers in two Senate hearings so far. And most messages sent to lawmakers last week were in favor of the shift in fishing priorities – of nearly 70 posted to the legislative website, only four were opposed, according to Juneau Resources Weekly.

 The United Fishermen of Alaska’s position on the personal use issue has remained the same for seven years: the legislature should leave prioritization of fishery allocations to the Board of Fish and management to the Department of Fish and Game.

 The personal use bill is now on its way to the Senate Resources Committee. A duplicate law has been filed in the House by Rep. Mark Neuman of Big Lake.

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 Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – serving Alaska’s fishing communities since 1910. On the web at .. In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.