As an aquatic farm applicant who has been battling the Alaska Department of Fish & Game for almost two years in our struggle to acquire aquatic shellfish farming permits, I would like to comment on the issue of shellfish farming regulations.
It appears that ADF&G is determined to put an end to shellfish farming in the state, despite the fact our Legislature specifically passed legislation to promote the industry. ADF&G recently came out with draft regulation against the shellfish farming industry in Alaska. These draft regulations were met with strong opposition from the industry, so much so that ADF&G agreed to go back and re-draft the regulations.
Last week the re-draft of the new regulations were released for public review, and again ADF&G has interpreted the legislative intent of the aquatic act to mean that most shellfish farming in Alaska should be banned.
ADF&G's interpretations are at odds with the legislation and logic. In section 1 of the enabling legislation, the Legislature found that shellfish farming would: provide a consistent source of quality food; provide new jobs; increase state exports; create new business opportunities; and increase the stability and diversity of the state's economy
It further found that development of aquatic shellfish farming in the state would increase the availability of fresh seafood to Alaskans and would strengthen the competitiveness of Alaskan seafood in the world marketplace by broadening the diversity of products and providing year-round supplies of premium quality seafood. In that same section, the Legislature clearly articulated that "It is the policy of the state to encourage the establishment and responsible growth of an aquatic farming industry in the state."
ADF&G is making every effort to stop this developing industry, but they are not doing it as protector of the resource, or creator of jobs, or innovators of new technology. If they were they would be following the law and supporting aquatic farmers. They are acting based on many of the things that most of us fear most about government - politics, power, and control, rather then logic, science, law, and economics.
Hurray for leaders like Rep. Lesil McGuire who are willing to stand up to the rhetoric of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game and the Knowles administration.
It's baffling why the Knowles administration wants to take away one more resource industry that has the potential to create jobs and increase the productivity of fishery resources.
Maybe it's time to add shellfish farming to the growing list of things we can't do in Southeast Alaska, like road building in the Tongass and fishing in Glacier Bay.
It appears there's a greater force out there would rather reserve Alaska as an antiquity, and when our own state government aligns itself with this force it makes it almost impossible to challenge.
Brian Mattson is an aquatic farmer who lives in Petersburg.
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