Group seeks unified fishing front

Advisory committee musters support prior to Board of Fisheries meeting

Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2002

The Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee wants to be heard, and it wants the Alaska Board of Fisheries to listen. To that end, the committee has submitted a request to the fish board asking that members meet with the Kenai-Soldotna group and other Kenai Peninsula advisory committees this month.

"It's the age-old thing of always try to get Israelis and Palestinians together hoping something good will happen," said Brent Johnson, president of the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee. "That's the idea here. We just want to get together and talk."

Johnson made reference to an audit of the Board of Fish performed by the Division of Legislative Audit in 2000. In a report issued Aug. 4, 2000, auditors recommended that the board continue to seek ways to integrate the perspective and ideas from advisory committees into the committee process.

"The Legislature ... recommended that the BOF should try to communicate with advisory committees better," Johnson said. "From our view that was quite true. So this is an effort on our part to stimulate that communication."

The Kenai-Soldotna committee has three main concerns it would like to discuss with Board of Fisheries members at the requested meeting. One issue has to do with the Alaska Fish and Game Advisory Committee review board.

According to Johnson, a review board is being formed from members of local advisory committees to review the workings of the board, especially regarding how responsive it is to local advisory committees. The Kenai-Soldotna committee would like to discuss the makeup, process and time line of the review board.

According to Johnson, no members of the Kenai-Soldotna group volunteered to serve on the review committee, but its members would still like to be informed on the progress of the review board.

In November, the Board of Fisheries enacted a rule limiting Cook Inlet and Resurrection Bay fishers to five king salmon a year, incorporating the limited winter king harvest into the annual bag limit where it hadn't been previously. The Kenai-Soldotna committee would like to discuss the implications and ramifications of this restriction with the board.

According to Paul Shadura II, an alternate on the Kenai-Soldotna committee, the fish board sent a representative to Homer to discuss this ruling after it was passed.

"They were responsive enough to go to the Homer area to talk about that issue, and the board listened," Shadura said. "Basically, what we'd like to see is more grass-roots involvement."

The Kenai-Soldotna committee would also like a heads-up on the issues to be discussed and decided at the board's three-year cycle meeting coming up in February. The Kenai-Soldotna committee will send a representative to this meeting, but the entire committee will not be able to attend, Johnson said. So if unexpected topics come up or unforeseen rulings are made, the committee will have no way to express concerns or comment on the rulings before the board enacts them into laws.

"It's hard to represent a group when you can't get a hold of the group and say 'what should we do in case of -- '" Johnson said. "So we wanted to ask the BOF what they foresaw coming up in the meeting."

The board will address about 500 proposals at its February meeting. Local advisory committees are currently discussing and voting on those proposals and will submit reports of their decisions to the board prior to the February meeting. Since the Kenai-Soldotna committee will submit a report of its recommendations on the proposals, it is not worried about lacking representation to comment on those issues.

Other Kenai Peninsula advisory committees will be invited to the proposed meeting so members could discuss issues of common interest. Some issues may only affect one area, but other committees could lend their support to receive a favorable ruling from the board, Johnson said.

"We could put together a uniform advisory vote," Johnson said. "We could work together to get ... more political power."

Suggested locations for the requested meeting are the Cook Inlet Aquaculture building and the Kenai River Center. These locations could accommodate public participation.

"It seems to be the more public participation there is, the better the decisions are that are made," Shadura said.

The Kenai-Soldotna committee sent its meeting request to the Board of Fisheries Jan. 2 and has not yet received a response. Johnson said he did not expect one until the end of this week or into next week.

"It's just an attempt to get a more responsive government," Shadura said. "I like to see the process work. I'd like to see government listen to individuals."



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