Personal use priority likely to resurface before lawmakers
January 19, 2016
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch –A personal use priority for salmon could resurface before Alaska lawmakers. More after this —
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Another so called tool intended “to help fish managers” will likely resurface before lawmakers this year. Dubiously dubbed “The Alaskans-First Fishing Act,” it targets salmon, without saying so directly. The bill directs the Board of Fisheries to give personal-use fisheries a priority over sport and commercial users whenever restrictions are imposed to achieve a management goal. As it stands now, the three fisheries are on equal footing in the eyes of state managers.
Senate Bill 42 has been introduced during each of the last seven legislative sessions by Republican Sen. Bill Stoltze of Chugiak. A duplicate law — HB 110 — also was filed by Rep. Mark Neuman of Big Lake. Last year for the first time, the bill got two hearings and a friendly reception by most lawmakers. But it never got beyond the Resources Committee where it sits today.
The Alaskans-First Fishing Act states: “One thing all Alaskans can agree on is that we should have a priority over people coming from elsewhere in the country and the world to utilize and harvest our fisheries resources. Fisheries that are restricted to residents only are meant to enable Alaskans to access their fisheries resources for their personal use and consumption.”
In reality, 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.
The lawmakers said last session that personal use fisheries “need more protections from commercial fishermen.” Senator Stoltz said the Board of Fisheries would still hold authority to set fish allocations, and called a personal use preference “an additional tool for managers.”
The United Fishermen of Alaska’s position on the personal use issue has remained the same: The Legislature should leave prioritization of fishery allocations to the Board of Fisheries and management to the Department of Fish and Game.
Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. (www.oceanbeauty.com) In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.