Alaska's fish belongs to Alaskans

Posted: Sunday, January 03, 2010

Alaska is the last frontier, where people value the pioneer spirit, independence and self-sufficiency. There is nothing more critical to this lifestyle than the ability of a family to feed itself. Subsistence and sport fishing deliver 100 percent of the benefits to Alaskans, whereas only a small percentage of commercial fishing goes to all Alaskans through taxes.

Sports and subsistence fishing combined only account for 3.5 percent of the total harvest. When fish are scarce, it should not be regulated in the same manner as commercial fishing. Commercial fishing has a greater effect with the least benefit to Alaskans.

In a recent Alaska Department of Fish and Game Subsistence Division report, "Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Salmon Management, A Contribution to the Development of a Salmon Fishery, Evaluation Framework for the State of Alaska," Phillip R. Mundy states: "It is reasonable for salmon harvest management to neglect stocks that form very small parts of the total harvest. ... Regulations would be evaluated for consistency with the priority for subsistence use called for by statute. ... Commercial fisheries should be administered to ensure the long term sustainability of populations of aquatic resources (including non-target bycatch species) and their habitats.

"Sports fisheries should also be administered to provide long-term sustainability of aquatic populations and habitats while at the same time ensuring a diversity of recreational opportunities to a wide range of public interests (including consumptive and nonconsumptive as diverse as opportunities for religious and subsistence uses)."

Alaska's written priorities state that only commercial fishing is to be regulated on fish availability. The regulating of sports and subsistence fishing cannot be done without taking into account the "wide range of public interest."

Alaska statutes and reports show the priority and majority's desire for sports and subsistence fishing. Federal statute also demands subsistence priority. It is time for Alaskans stick together for the maximum benefit of fish, rather than sports and subsistence competing for the crumbs left over by the commercial coveting of more than 96 percent of Alaskan's resources.

Greg Hayes

20 year Alaska sports and subsistence fishing


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