Keep the conversation going

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said it well when, at the conclusion of a panel discussion on Cook Inlet fishery issues, she applauded the panelists’ willingness to talk about the issues in a public forum — something she said that, in her experience, does not always happen in other parts of the state.

“Typically, they would choose to just bury it and not talk about it publicly and the fighting continues and it becomes more difficult,” Murkowski said. “So you’ve taken the first step today in a very public forum.”

We’d like to echo those sentiments, and encourage the public dialogue on Cook Inlet fisheries to continue.

The so-called Cook Inlet fish wars have been waged for decades. When the salmon returns are strong, the conflicts tends to simmer down to minor skirmishes here and there as stakeholders are too busy fishing to argue. But when salmon abundance is low or declining, as it has been for king salmon over the past few seasons, the battles rage on as all sides fight to protect their livelihoods.

In that climate, when anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion, it takes a great deal of courage to sit on a panel and engage in a public discussion on the topic. What’s more, Wednesday’s panelists spoke openly and respectfully on topics that could have easily devolved into shouting matches. Many attendees left the event feeling they had learned something new, or gleaned some insight from hearing a different perspective. That in and of itself is a tremendous accomplishment.

No single panel discussion is going to solve every issue with fishery management. Even a two-week fish board meeting isn’t going to address every problem. Any proposed solutions that may be forthcoming are going to spark spirited debate. After decades of conflict, the sides are dug in too deep for the conversation to be an easy one. Was Wednesday’s discussion the beginning of a cease-fire in the fish wars? It’s too soon to draw any conclusions, and we expect that the decorum displayed by the panelists may be tested when the fish board convenes this week.

But fishing, be it sport, commercial, personal-use of subsistence, affects our entire community. Talking with each other — not at each other — about the impacts of management policies is the only way to move our community forward.

More

Op-ed: A new direction on education

American public school students fall well behind students around the world in math and science proficiency. This is not debatable. According to the Trends in... Read more

State must continue to support fight against opioid abuse

This past week, Gov. Bill Walker signed an administrative order directing state agencies to pursue grant funding to help fight opioid abuse across the state.... Read more

Op-ed: How much do you tip the spy?

You’ve got to eat at the terrace dining room at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. Not only does it have a wine menu, a food... Read more

What others say: Mixing fish and politics in Oregon decision

In an astoundingly ignorant and heavy-handed display of putting urban political correctness ahead of rural jobs, Gov. Kate Brown last week dictated that the citizen... Read more