Seaton working on fish, prescription measures

Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2003

Rep.-elect Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said he's working on a fisheries bill that would permit fishers to harvest the eggs of aged chum and pink salmon and toss the carcasses overboard.

Under current laws written to protect against wanton waste of fish flesh, even fish well past their prime whose flesh no longer has any value must be brought to shore and turned into fertilizer, fish meal or other products. That amounts to a cost for fishers who must pay for the fish to be disposed of, said the House District 35 representative.

"It's a worn-out principal," Seaton said. Fishery laws "just haven't kept up with the times."

The flesh of aging fish darkens, he said. At that point, there is no value to the meat.

Under his proposal, the fish eggs easily could be harvested and sold for profit if fishers could toss the carcasses overboard. Ecologically, he suggested, that would be cleaner than bringing the fish to shore where the ground-up carcasses could end up being flushed into places like Kachemak Bay.

The law would not apply to fish earlier in their runs whose flesh remained marketable, Seaton said.

"We don't want to promote wasting carcasses," he said.

Beyond that, Seaton said he'd watch closely any proposed legislation to come out of the Salmon Industry Task Force.

He said he's considering a bill that would allow fishers to hire their own tenders. It would give more flexibility in delivering fish to market, such as allowing one fishing vessel to accumulate the catch of several and take them to shore, rather than the whole fleet having to dock to deliver. Seaton said it could lower fishing expenses significantly.

Seaton said he would pre-file a bill to require that pharmacists include generic drug names and other information on the labels of brand-name prescriptions. According to Seaton, senior citizens have told him ignorance about which generic names are equivalent to brand-name prescription drugs has led some users to consume more than the prescribed dosages of medications under the misconception they are taking two separate drugs.

"I was really surprised how much overdosing and double dosing there is because of this problem," he said.

On transportation, Seaton said state lawmakers will look to the federal government to continue relief efforts after last fall's floods. He said he expects more damage will be discovered during breakup this spring.

He said there were several road projects on the lower Kenai Peninsula he would like to see added to the state's priority lists, such as completing the paving of the North Fork Road and at least engineering a new route along an existing trail from Razdolna to Kachemak Selo. Such a road could open access to the Fox River Valley, he said.

"I think Gov. Frank Murkowski and Rep. Don Young would be interested in opening something that could actually be useful," he said.

Seaton said he is anticipating reviewing the education cost-differential study and would support, in principal, an increase in spending for education.

"What route we take to get there doesn't matter to me as much as getting there," he said.

On subsistence, Seaton said he supports a local-usage requirement of subsistence fish and game in times of need, adding he believes it may be possible to get such a state law accepted as a proxy for a constitutional rural preference.

"Then we don't have to change the Alaska Constitution or ANILCA (the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act)," he said. Seaton credited the idea to former Gov. Jay Hammond.

On adoption of a long-range fiscal plan, Seaton acknowledged the influence of Republicans at this time at the state and federal level but said he's not sure that alignment means passing such a plan will happen in the 23rd Legislature.

"We'll have to wait and see how it plays out to see differences in agendas between the Legislature and the administration," he said. "Some things are going to go better, some we'll just have to watch to see there is an alignment of interests. I just don't know."

Two senators and four members of the Alaska House represent the Kenai Peninsula and the island of Kodiak, something that has Seaton optimistic about the upcoming session.

They include Sens. Tom Wagoner of District Q, Sen. Alan Austerman of District R, and Reps. Kelly Wolf of House District 33, Mike Chenault of House District 34, Gary Stevens of House District 36 and Seaton in District 35.

"It's a group of legislators who want to work as a caucus, and with the six of us working together we have a strong voice in the Legislature," he said.



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