I sat in disbelief as I read a quote from Tony Knowles in the Oct. 4 issue of the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Referring to the $180 billion federal farm bill he says, "Why not Alaskan fishermen? Why can't we get national support? We must have national policy that embraces fishermen."
I have part of the answer to his questions - because the Knowles-Ulmer administration has never even tried to get the support we fishermen have asked for during the past eight years in Washington, D.C. It takes constant presence in the legislative committees, congressional representatives and senators' offices and in the halls of the agencies to access key pieces of legislation like the Farm Bill. The governor's office should look like a war room instead of a library! It should be financed and staffed like a professional lobbying firm and should be acting like one.
The Knowles-Ulmer administration abandoned coastal Alaska and the salmon industry after they were elected and have done nothing to help our national and international problems. The concept of an industry-wide fisheries advisory panel was also rejected eight years ago, something which would have worked toward mapping the state's fisheries future, instead of having to find blame for the results of their lack of planning. They said they'd be the best fish mongers ever, and that was the last we heard anything about marketing. There has been no marketing support from this administration except in the oil industry - who needs to market oil? The assets of the state should all be leveraged against each other, not at the expense of one another. The closest the Knowles-Ulmer administration has come to fisheries support is to sign on to work that industry advocates have already done.
Sen. Murkowski's stand on fisheries issues is 180 degrees out from the current administration. He will treat the state's resources as a whole - as an "Alaska corporation." Receiving vision and advice from the industry will be the norm, as will be the placement of knowledgeable advisors and staff who come with experience and knowledge of the industry they will advise on - and they will be available to the public! What a change that will be.
Frank understands development and investment - he is committed to using these concepts to bring the fishing industry (i.e. salmon) back into viability. All the Knowles-Ulmer administration has done is to use federal disaster declarations to bring in federal support as their development plan for the state.
Things are much worse than they were eight years ago, and I am not willing to gamble on the possibility that the Ulmer half of this current team will be so dramatically different than what we've got now. I attended an Ulmer fund-raiser in a fishing community where Fran never mentioned the word fish or fishermen in her speech. When she announced her candidacy, she said she'd continue to build on the successes and accomplishments of the current administration. That's what I'm afraid of! Vote for Frank Murkowski and let's get a fresh start on some very critical problems with a new plan!
Bruce Schactler of Kodiak has been a multi-species commercial fisherman for 25 years. He is an elected at-large delegate to United Fishermen of Alaska and is president of the United Salmon Association.