ANCHORAGE - Gubernatorial candidate Fran Ulmer is opposed to granting seafood processors a guaranteed share of the catch of crab and other species.
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Ulmer this week said she would push the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to reverse its stand on processor shares in the Bering Sea if she is elected.
Ulmer's new stance puts her at odds with the Knowles administration, which supported processor shares as part of a larger effort to divide up the Bering Sea crab fishery between fishermen and fishing communities. Earlier in the campaign, Ulmer expressed misgivings about the idea but not outright opposition.
Ulmer's Republican rival, Frank Murkowski, is inclined against processor shares, an aide said Wednesday. But the GOP candidate is willing to let the North Pacific council continue to study the matter and finish its plan.
Murkowski aide Bill Woolf dismissed Ulmer's statements as "meaningless" because the governor directly controls only one of the 11 votes on the council. The council voted unanimously in June to support a Bering Sea crab plan that included processor shares.
Even if processors get a share of Bering Sea crab, Woolf said, Murkowski won't support a similar program for other fisheries unless it has the support of fishermen.
Murkowski won the endorsement of many commercial fishing groups early in the campaign. His aides said Ulmer's position was aimed at winning some of that support.
But Ulmer said she reached her position after hearing concerns about processor shares for several months on the campaign trail. Ulmer stated her position in an interview with fisheries reporter Lainie Welch.
The issue of processor quotas has roiled Alaska's coastal communities all year. Opponents fear processors eventually will seek guaranteed shares of other fisheries, such as Gulf of Alaska cod and even salmon.
Fishermen say they will be unable to negotiate for fair prices if they are forced to deliver to certain processors. Processors argue they have large investments in shore-based plants, often in remote communities where it's expensive to operate.