My turn: State denies sport fisherman, subsistence users equal access

Posted: Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Equal access to Fishery Resources is being denied to Alaska's Sport Fisherman and Subsistence users.

The Alaska Board of Fish recently made a poor decision in restarting a summer Dungeness crab fishery that had been closed for nearly 25 years. This decision demonstrates the state's need to change many of the processes by which it manages Alaska resources.

Commercial fishing Dungeness crab in the summer, when they are molting, reproducing and of low quality, has wasted millions of pounds of the resource and is damaging the resource forever. This is not a sustained yield method of management.

The summer commercial Dungeness fishery in the Ketchikan area was shut down because of waste and the damage it was causing to the stock. The Board of Fish cited lack of information as the reason it was reopened. Even though the Dungeness fishery is bad, it is only a symptom of what is really wrong. The Board of Fish, with its few members, cannot effectively manage Alaska fisheries or allow fair representation for all users. Think about who is representing you. Are you happy with that person's representation for all the different gear groups or users in your area?

When the Board of Fish makes a bad decision or is led astray by a board member representing special interests, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game must support the destructive management practices that are put in place. Alaska statue has given the Board of Fish the "ultimate authority." ADF&G may have the ability to stop damaging fisheries from taking place, but it does not have the courage go against the Board of Fish. Courts hearing cases against bad fisheries are reminded by a Board of Fish attorney that they cannot consider what is good for the resource; they must follow Alaska statutes that gave the Board of Fish the ultimate authority. This must stop.

Alaskans are being misrepresented by the current Board of Fish process and resources are being damaged or lost forever. If you wish to stop this problem, contact your local legislators and tell them to establish Regional Boards of Fish. This will allow for fair and equal representation. Then, ask your local legislator to take the ultimate authority away from the Board of Fish. Finally, ask your legislator to stop management of fisheries by using commercial fishing catch results. This practice prohibits good management and is wiping out our resources.

• Lloyd Gossman is a personal use fisherman and 35-year Alaska resident. He also is a former president of the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce and former board member of the State Chamber of Commerce.

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