U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe is visiting Southeast Alaska, at the invitation of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, to discuss sea otter issues related to fishing and Native Alaskan art.
Murkowski said in a press release she called the stakeholder meetings to address friction between Fish and Wildlife enforcement actions toward Alaska Native craftsmen who work with sea otters and other marine mammals.
The meeting in Juneau is planned for Friday at 2 p.m. in the Sealaska boardroom one in Sealaska Plaza. The public is welcome and invited to participate in the question and answer with Fish and Wildlife staff following the meeting.
Sea otters are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. The otter was harvested intensely in the early 1900s, the Southeast population was basically gone by the 1950s. It was then reintroduced to the area in the late 1960s. It is now moving into its traditional territory and preying on its traditional diet of geoduck, clams, urchin and crab – competing with subsistence, sport and commercial fisheries.
The act has provisions to allow Alaska Natives to harvest sea otters, which they use in traditional clothing and artwork. Native artists have come asked for more leeway in the types of otter uses deemed traditional and acceptable under the act.
Director Ashe will meet with stakeholders in Sitka on Saturday.