Empire editorial: Can't we just get along?

Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2007

It's inevitable. It's understandable.

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People who live in tourist towns sometimes get irritated when the local livelihood disrupts local lifestyles.

Sometimes they get downright mad.

Sometimes, getting mad is the only sane thing to do.

The stories are legion, and sometimes they're even true. This story is older than commercial tourism. It's about the fish that got away.

If you live year-round in Juneau, you may have heard about it at the office or the dock or wherever you work. Maybe you read about it in a letter to the editor of this newspaper from an irate fisherman.

The Empire received such a letter last week. A fisherman had been playing a big salmon for quite a while. Other fishermen noticed. They cheered the big, brave fish every time it broke water, and they cheered the tenacious angler.

Along came a tourist charter boat. Instead of veering away, the fisherman wrote, the vessel refused to veer from its onshore course and cut the guy's line.

"There are unwritten rules when fishing," the irate fisherman wrote. "When a boat or person has a fish on - get away or stay away."

Seems like common sense.

The captain of the charter boat had a different take. He wrote that he tried to steer away from the other boat, but he said the fish had too much line.

"I've lost quite a few fish over the years because of my gear getting hung up on other boats," he wrote. "But I don't call these boats out or point fingers saying it's their fault."

Maybe he should. You can't read unwritten rules, but any sportsman should know them.

Was the charter captain negligent? Did the fisherman not have proper control? What difference would it make? Who's to judge what's "proper?"

That argument won't be settled here.

But one thing's for sure. As long as Juneau is a tourist town, at least part of the year, that kind of conflict isn't going away.

Even successful tourist towns learn to come to terms with the irritating and the infuriating. Ever get mad at somebody on the job? Same thing. Coping with tourists is everybody's job. Some people enjoy it; some hate it. What really counts is making the best of it, emotionally and economically.

Yes, tourist charters may overrun our favorite fishing spots. Tourists themselves may clog our streets. They may stop and take a picture, just to make you late for work.

Take a deep breath. Look at what they're photographing. Is it something you see every day and take for granted?

Just remember that those doggone jaywalkers paid a lot of money to take that picture.

They keep Juneau going when the salmon aren't running.

They keep Juneau going when the Legislature's out of session.

Fish. Politicians. Tourists. Let's savor them all. Sooner or later, they all escape.

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