Alaska editorial: Praises for fish board appointment

Posted: Friday, April 07, 2006

This editorial appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

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Congratulations, Bonnie Williams. We guess. Sort of.

And good luck. You'll probably need it.

That's about how it goes for members of the state Board of Fisheries who have a background or interest primarily in sport fishing. Four people on the seven-member fish board are affiliated with the commercial fishing industry, but Mrs. Williams - nominated to the board on Friday by Gov. Frank Murkowski - will join Jeremiah Campbell of Seward and Rupe Andrews of Juneau as a member most interested in issues affecting sport fishing.

Commercial fishing being what is to Alaska, a major industry that exceeds the sport fishing business in size, it's perhaps to be expected that the board would have a majority representing its interests.

But sport fishing and commercial fishing are constantly in a tug of war, and not just over Alaska's famed salmon. In just one example, from a fish board meeting in Southeast in February, guided sport fishermen were the subject of a proposal requiring them to possess a punch card that would note the species and number of fish taken and would be submitted weekly. Those behind the proposal had been complaining that sport fishing guides had been exceeding the limit and harming the halibut, yellow-eye rockfish and other groundfish fisheries. Examples such as these arise all the time.

And it's because of that tug-of-war that the sport fishing industry should have a steady and persistent voice - several of them, really - on the fish board. And it's best, too, if at least one of those people comes from the Interior, so the governor's selection of Mrs. Williams is a good catch in both respects. The selection of Mrs. Williams, who would replace fellow Fairbanks resident Fred Bouse, must still gain the endorsement of the Alaska Legislature.

Mrs. Williams has said that, once seated on the board, she will be on guard against encroachment of sport fishing and subsistence uses of the state's fisheries. But she also says she knows that she and her soon-to-be sport-fishing colleagues on the board are in the minority. That doesn't mean sitting quiet, however, and residents of the Fairbanks North Star Borough should know by now that Mrs. Williams doesn't sit quiet. Her many years on the Borough Assembly are ample evidence of that.

The Legislature is urged to confirm the appointment of Mrs. Williams. And once it does, Interior residents should have every confidence in her ability to figure out fair and equitable seasons, limits, and methods for the state's sport, commercial, guided and personal-use fisheries.

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