A plan to compensate people harmed by commercial fishing closures in Glacier Bay is too little and too exclusive, some fishermen told National Park Service officials Wednesday in Juneau.
"We're fighting over peanuts," said Angoon Mayor Floyd Kookesh.
Congress appropriated $23 million to help fishermen, crew members, processors and their workers, other businesses and communities affected by the shut-down of some commercial fisheries and the phase-out of others in the bay, which began in 1999.
The real losses could total $51 million, said Jim Calvin of the McDowell Group, which did the economic study that will help apportion the funds among the fisheries and users.
The Park Service is gathering comments this month on the plan, which would base compensation for fishermen and processors mainly on participation in a Glacier Bay commercial fishery between 1989 and 1998. Younger fishing-permit holders would get a little more money than older ones because they are losing more future earnings.
That's discriminatory, said fisherman Jerry Nelson. And Barbara Cadiente-Nelson, member of a several-generation fishing family, said the plan wouldn't compensate those who pioneered fisheries in the bay.
Some fishermen wanted the
10-year qualifying period extended.
Arnie Weimer said he fished in the bay before the period and planned to hand-troll there in the future. Now he can't fish there or be compensated for future losses.
"My business is compromised. My life is compromised," Weimer said at the Centennial Hall meeting. "I could have a very nice retirement hand-trolling in Glacier Bay, but I'm being totally shut out."
Fisherman Joe Emerson said the qualifying period happens to include the worst years for the winter salmon troll fishery and excludes some great years before that. The value of trollers' compensation will be reduced by being based on poor years.
"It just tears me apart that our history is so easily torn apart and forgotten," said Cadiente-Nelson about the plan in general. "Fairness should come as how we fishermen define it. Fairness should be inclusive and not exclusive."
Fishermen also wanted to know what documentation would be needed to show past participation in a bay fishery. The federal government will audit the program, maybe every application, said Tomie Lee, superintendent of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
Documentation can be difficult because the state's statistical areas, in which fishermen record their catch, don't coincide with Glacier Bay.
"It puts the onus on fishermen to come up with supplemental data, such as log books," said Dick HofMann, who oversees the Glacier Bay program for the state Department of Fish and Game.
And it's an even harder burden of proof for support businesses in fishing towns such as Hoonah and Gustavus, Lee said. An air service that flies out fish will have fish tickets. But what about a grocery store whose business is down since the fishing closures?
"How can you show a connection? Hopefully, people will help us come up with some of these answers," Lee said.
The Park Service is taking public comment through Nov. 30. A final plan is expected by January.