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Personal-use priority bill divisive for Kenai fisheries, council members say

Posted: February 13, 2013 - 9:50pm

Kenai city officials fear that proposed legislation from a Chugiak lawmaker will hamper the city’s efforts to clean up its dipnet fishery and cause further division among personal-use, sport and commercial fishermen.

House Bill 18, introduced by Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, places priority in personal-use fisheries when restrictions are enacted for management goals. Currently the Alaska Department of Fish and Game manages all fisheries — sport, personal-use, commercial and educational — on the same level, said Pat Shields, upper Cook Inlet area management biologist for commercial fisheries for Fish and Game.

If the bill passes as is currently written, personal-use fisheries would close last.

Council members Ryan Marquis and Bob Molloy are afraid the bill would lead to another 24-hour dipnet fishery opening. If commercial and sport fisheries are closed and the personal-use dipnet fishery remains open, Fish and Game may move to open it for 24 hours during the month it is open to ensure enough fish are caught, Molloy said.

The 24-hour dipnet fishery opening last year prevented city crews from effectively cleaning waste left on the beach, and council has officially opposed the 24-hour opening in a letter to Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell.

“I think the house bill is an example of someone that’s putting the priorities ahead of his constituents, not of the people here,” said Ryan Marquis, council member and vice mayor.

Molloy said the council has traditionally supported equal harvest opportunities for all user groups, and the bill would be a drastic departure from that. He does not support the bill, he said.

“Allocations should be based on science,” he said. They should not be based on politics, he said.

Mayor Pat Porter and council members Terry Bookey, Tim Navarre and Marquis do not support the bill as it is written.

Stoltze introduced a similar bill, HB 20, in 2012 that failed, and HB 18 is a continuation of his efforts, he said.

“It’s a priority for folks where I live — big population centers — and it’s one of those things that there are some real dividing lines between the other uses,” Stoltze said.

He acknowledged that his bill may be unpopular in other districts where commercial and sport fishing are more prominent season-long than personal-use, but he is putting Alaska residents first by making personal-use fisheries a priority during times of fishing restrictions.

“I’m representing the point of view of a pretty broad group of users,” Stoltze said. “It’s almost like the Natural Resource Permanent Fund Dividend — a lot of folks have gotten used to that. They put their dividend in the bank or apply it to bills. They put their fish in the freezer and apply that protein to their late summer-winter diet.”

But the fisheries are more than a source of food for many families in Kenai — they are a source of income, Molloy said. He said there would be an outcry in Kenai if the bill passed as is written.

Council member Tim Navarre is in Juneau meeting with state legislators. He said he will brief the council at its Wednesday meeting on HB 18 once he has spoken with Stoltze.

Bookey said he will continue to monitor the bill for any changes or roadblocks.

“My initial thought is it doesn’t sound like sound policy,” Bookey said. “It’s not necessarily scientific and biological rezoning on why he wants to allot the fishery the way he does.”

Dan Schwartz can be reached at

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ManInBlack 02/14/13 - 09:41 am
While I agree with Malloy that....

.....“Allocations should be based on science,”, not politics, it seems quite disingenuous coming from the mayor and the city council when the decisions being made regarding the Kenai beach fiasco are based SOLELY on politics....

That having been said, this article really doesn't do much to inform us what the Bill actually says, just making reference to how the mayor and city council have interpreted it. I personally believe that there is nothing wrong with putting the residents of Alaska FIRST, and commercial interests SECOND when it comes to our resources (and I have spent a fair time picking nets for a living).

Unglued 02/14/13 - 01:19 pm
Fish allocations

City Council member Bob Malloy needs to get his facts straight. (“Allocations should be based on science,” he said. They should not be based on politics, he said.) Fish allocation is by its very nature always political and never scientific. The Department of Fish and Game, which advises the Board of Fisheries, declares itself "neutral" in any proposal for a new regulation that deals in any way with allocation. The reason? Because allocation is political, not scientific. The Board of Fisheries, the regulation-making authority for the Alaska's fish and game resources, must assume a political posture on allocative proposals. Those who claim that the board should never get into politics are blind to the reality that the board MUST be political. While board members always consider biological aspects of proposals, they also consider other factors, such as social, cultural, economic, traditional, etc.. There is more to making regulations than science.

Redbrdee 02/15/13 - 12:23 pm

Alaska is extremely large. Anchorage/Mat-Su and Fairbanks area politicians tend towards the obnoxious. How about we draw a line around them and they can find a new name for their little state of people who are mostly, recently from Outside and the rest of us can have a state with a government that has respect for us, our environment, our fish and our rights to govern our own communities ourselves without the likes of Bill Stoltze. We might have to pay some taxes to support it but it would be far better than allowing folks like this to run over us with the intent of either taking our resources for themselves at the cost of jobs in sports and commercial fishing which have been here a long time or imposing terrible mining projects on the land. Call Mr. Chenault....etc. We who live on the Peninsula take very few of those fish in dipnets. The dipnetters frequently take kings. This dipnet fishery trashes the community for the entire month of July. Its is time to make Anchorage/Mat-Su and Fairbanks area either buy the services of guides or purchase commercially caught fish. When did any of us get anything free from them? Or perhaps a new rule should be instituted: you would have to dipnet within the confines of your own borough or not at all.

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