Alaska shouldn't pay for Washington's salmon mistakes

Posted: Sunday, March 12, 2000

Just in case the federal officials holding hearings throughout Southeast last week on Snake River kings didn't get the message, here it is again: Please leave our fish alone.

As of this writing, more than 350 Southeast Alaskans have attending the hearings by the nine federal agencies - known as the Federal Caucus - and no one has spoken in favor of cutting back our king salmon harvests to help out the Snake River chinook runs.

We're sorry the Washington state river salmon are declining, but that was the state's choice. Logic tells you if you build a dam, it's going to hurt salmon runs. Washington state built four dams on the river, which provide about 5 percent of the region's electricity, irrigation for agribusiness and barge routes. And now their salmon runs are dropping. It was their choice - power or fish.

One option, included in the Caucus' ``All-H Paper,'' calls for ``conservation level'' management policies - read that as once again reducing Alaska's salmon harvest. Another option, favored by nearly everyone who attended the Southeast hearings, was to breach the dams.

Even though Alaskans don't get a ``vote'' in this tempest, we say breach the dams. Why is it whenever some country - hello Canada - or Lower 48 state starts seeing declining salmon stocks, they start complaining that Alaska has too much, and of course that we're stealing their fish.

Gee, it wouldn't be because we manage our stocks a lot better or don't build dams right in the middle of key runs, would it? Maybe these other countries and states ought to come up here and see how it's really done.

Now federal officials say 100 to 200 fall Snake River salmon are caught in Alaska every year. That's not a big number, but the feds say there's so few Snake River chinooks that any number is important.

That's what the feds say. Of course the Alaska Trollers Association says a Southeast troller catches about one Snake River spawner every 40 years or so on average.

To resolve this matter, we'd like to offer an approach similar to the one we offered the Canadians a few years back - just mark your fish. Basically, let the Washington state officials put little snake stamps on their salmon. If we catch one, we promise to throw it back. Shoot, they're not as good as ours anyway.

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