Candidates for the office of Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor were quizzed Tuesday about one of the Peninsula's most regularly discussed topics during a public forum - fish management.
Specifically, candidates for the office were asked what policies and ideas they would bring forward to better manage the area's fisheries at a forum hosted and broadcast by KSRM at Stanley Ford in Kenai.
Former borough mayor and state legislator Mike Navarre said he would like to get a group of citizens together to talk through some of the issues and form "consensus recommendations."
"The first thing that would make sense is if the Board of Fish would follow their own policies and focus on Cook Inlet only every three years or maybe on a longer cycle," he said. "Now that's not something the mayor can change, but what we can do is try to work together to come up with consensus recommendations that we can all get behind first for the benefit of all of us."
He said the borough should also ask for more funding to better enforce the area's personal-use fisheries.
Soldotna resident Fred Sturman said he would like to put all of the main user groups into a "nice big room" and have a few days of "long discussions" to hopefully solve some of the problems.
"I kind of doubt that it would happen, but it's a way to start," he said.
Sturman also agreed there needed to be more enforcement of the dipnet fishery on the Kenai River.
Former assembly member Gary Superman said he felt it was important to get the Board of Fish to meet in the Kenai area and that if elected he would really "push the issue."
"(I want to) get our point across that we have some major problems down here in each of the fisheries, specifically the personal-use fishery," Superman said. "We get those problems related to the Board of Fish in no uncertain terms and we absolutely require some kind of solution to it."
He also said he would like to "vet out" the possibility of opening up more segments of the beach to dipnetting.
Former assembly member Debbie Brown said he challenged the "laissez-faire" attitude causing "life and death" situations when it comes to fish management.
"A tremendous amount of stress is being brought upon our communities and families during the personal-use fishery when the Board of Fish is grossly mismanaging the fishery entirely. We need to do more. We have to be involved more so because these are serious problems that affect life."
She said bringing the Board of Fish to the area was not the best solution and instead wanted to create a "fisheries commission" to "fight back" at the board.
Former mayor Dale Bagley acknowledged the state "didn't provide any money" to help manage the fishery, "although they are certainly collecting a lot of money" from it.
"It's too bad that the Kenai Peninsula Borough has to keep funding that," he said. "It is my understanding that the state is helping out a little bit finally, but I would like to see more of that from the state's perspective to take ownership for the subsistence fishing down here."
Mayoral candidate Tim O'Brien, a Nikiski resident, did not attend the forum.
Brian Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.