Reader wants to clear up misinformation from letter

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I saw your “Where’s the consumer’s side” story on Jan. 29, where Victoria O’Connell made a bunch of false claims. She claimed Alaska’s commercial fishing fleet fishes for 250 million U.S. consumers, while charter boats only fishing for “the client.”

She said the charter industry gets more than its “fair” share of halibut. Also she said that her and her 250 million U.S. consumers have always stayed within their GHL allocation in 2C, while charter boats have exceeded their allocations.

With regard to Alaska waters, her letter was packed full of misleading information. The truth is commercial fisheries GHL allocations were made simply because commercial fishermen invaded and lobbied the IPHC allocation process.

This political corkscrewing and backstabbing “accidentally” forced all the long-liners into becoming millionaires. To claim they did it for the public good is like claiming Bill Gates started Microsoft for the public good.

The charter boat industry could claim the same thing by providing consumers with access to fisheries resources previously inaccessible to them.

Also her claim that charter boats operators are “commercial operators” is absolutely incorrect. She needs to check out the “commercial use vs. common use” operator difference in Alaska.

Alaska law views these two groups as legally separate entities. The reason for the difference is because one group has zero Constitutional common use fisheries access while the other has 100 percent Constitutional common use fisheries access. Only common users are constitutionally guaranteed access to Alaska surplus fisheries. Commercial operators gave up this guarantee back in 1972 when they asked for, and received, a Constitutional change that extracted them from Alaska common use fisheries. (Section 15, Article VIII of the Alaska Constitution. No Exclusive Right of Fishery —

This Constitutional change was constructed for many reasons, but one was to allow the state to allocate commercial operators the bulk of a surplus fisheries or nothing at all.

This change allows maximum state fisheries management flexibility, along with an “all or nothing” context.

Only Alaska’s common users are Constitutionally guaranteed, a general, “all you can use” fisheries guarantee.

Surplus fisheries beyond common use were granted to commercial operators in exchange for the Section 15 “all or nothing” management concession

Long-liners and their “international friends” may not regard common use, but I have a feeling the public is beginning to wake up on this ever-tightening allocation issue. Once the public tires of watching long-liners get rich while they wonder where all the halibut went to, I think things may just change within the make-up of the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

So you see, Victoria, charter operators are not getting more than their “fair” share of halibut in Alaska waters, because their common use “fair” share is not a fixed poundage of fish or meat. Fisheries access in Alaska waters is not a matter of who is fishing for who, like you falsely claimed. It is a matter of who is a common user.

Don Johnson


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