State Sport Fish Division is pushing for a long-term plan

Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2001

The state Division of Sport Fish wants to know what issues citizens think it should grapple with over the next 10 years. But some anglers say there's no point doing that type of planning apart from the commercial and subsistence fisheries and habitat management.

The Sport Fish Division is in the middle of its first effort to create a strategic plan, which officials say will help shape its roughly $28 million annual budget starting in fall 2002. The agency gathered public opinion in meetings recently in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, and is taking comments on its Web site, preferably by Nov. 15.

"We want our division to be more effective and more accountable, and we want to build a stronger relationship with our users and the public," said division Director Kelly Hepler.

Citizens so far have told officials they are concerned about preserving fish habitat, managing for sustainable fisheries, and a lack of fish. At a meeting in Juneau recently, some anglers also spoke of a need for coordinated management among the divisions of the Department of Fish and Game.

"You can't manage sport fish separate from commercial fishing separate from subsistence," said angler Steve Peterson, who is a wildlife biologist with the state.

Carl Rosier, former fish and game commissioner and now president of the Alaska Outdoor Council, said the department should be reshaped into a single fisheries function.

"The structure that you have now begins, right from the get-go, to build in conflicts, not only as far as users go, but for the resources," Rosier said.

There needs to be more monitoring of the habitat, said Kathy Hansen, executive director of Southeast Alaska Fishermen's Alliance, a commercial fishing organization. "Without good habitat you don't have the fish."

Ken Dole, managing partner for Waterfall Resort, an 84-guest remote lodge on Prince of Wales Island, said he was concerned about charters' access to king salmon.

The number of kings available for anglers depends on the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the United States and Canada, and on management plans set up by Alaska. State restrictions on charters early last season alarmed the industry.

"That cost us quite a bit of business this year - nonreturning guests," Dole said in an interview. "So I'd like to see that type of scenario not reappear."

Anglers don't always agree on what Fish and Game should do.

Ron Somerville of the Territorial Sportsmen called for regional fisheries plans by species and even stocks where possible. He wanted regulations that would protect local stocks for local users.

But Peterson said regulations already are complex and the state tends to micromanage specific stocks. "Simplicity is better," he said. "There ought to be some conservative common denominators."

The Sport Fish Division is taking public comments by e-mail at sfsp@fishgame.state.ak.us. The Web site for the strategic plan is www.sf.adfg.state.ak.us/statewide/StratPlan/Html/PSPhome.htm.



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