Board to make decision on trade

Action expected on allowing sale of subsistence fish

Posted: Monday, January 13, 2003

The Federal Subsistence Board will take final action Tuesday on a proposed regulation to allow cash sales of subsistence-caught fish.

Tom Morphet, subsistence outreach coordinator for the United Fishermen of Alaska, said Friday the ruling will determine to what extent subsistence users can take advantage of "customary trade," a provision allowed under federal rules. Both federal and state law allow customary trade, but until now it has only been allowed for sales of herring roe on kelp in Southeast Alaska.

"The big discussion will be what kind of sales can be allowed between rural and nonrural residents," Morphet said at Friday's meeting of the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Commit-tee.

The federal board has several options for regulating customary trade. Morphet said the board has been looking at ways to limit sales from becoming a "significant commercial enterprise," including limiting sales to $1,000 per family member. Whatever the board decides, Morphet said the regulations will almost certainly not allow sales between subsistence users and businesses.

The proposed rule change came about after federal managers took over subsistence regulations on all federal lands in Alaska. Morphet said the board has been wrangling over how to implement customary trade since then. However, determining exactly how trade should be regulated has generated much debate.

"The federal subsistence board has been chewing on this proposal for a year and a half," Morphet said.

Also Friday, Morphet outlined new guidelines for membership on regional subsistence advisory councils. Beginning this year, the board will designate seats on each of Alaska's 10 regional advisory councils for commercial and recreational fish users. Under the new plan, at least 30 percent of seats on the councils must come from recreational and commercial users.

As a result of the change, the Southcentral council will expand to 13 members from its previous seven.

Morphet encouraged anyone who is interested to apply to serve on the council, as the federal board is obligated to by law to adhere to council recommendations.

"These regional advisory councils have real power," he said.

Morphet said anyone wishing to serve on a regional advisory council has until Feb. 28 to submit an application to the federal board. Application forms are available through the federal Office of Subsistence Management, which can be reached at (800) 478-1546.

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