Like Jonah, who predicted too soon the demise of Ninevah, I must admit my own auguring of doom for commercial fishers has proven premature.
Going in to the recent Board of Fish (BOF) process I was certain commercial fishers had no advocate. I expected a fleet of flotsam downstream of this meeting. While there can be no doubt that Alaska politics have short-changed Cook Inlet com fishers, the recent meeting seemed fair. Why was that?
There were probably several reasons. Processor involvement was at an all-time high. John Woodruff testified for Icicle; Wayne Kvasnikoff spoke for Ocean Beauty; David Brindle represented Pacific Star; and Vince Goddard participated for Inlet Fisheries.
A surprise came when BOF members allowed their chairman, Mel Morris, to participate. Morris, a Kodiak resident, has been a salmon purchaser for some time. Three years ago he was disqualified for conflict of interest. This year he chaired the meeting and proved equal to the task. Chance took Larry Edfelt, a Juneau guide, out of the fray. Edfelt got sick and had to go home.
Board member Bonnie Williams of Fairbanks was another surprise. She obviously did her homework and has a backbone, though there were plenty of hobnobbing lobbyists.
Kenai River Sportfishing Association had an ichthyologist from Oregon, a retired Bristol Bay commercial fish biologist, a PR firm and their normal millionaire spokesman. Three ex-BOF members lobbied like tabby cats.
The 2008 Board of Fish seemed to voice genuine concern for fair play and vote their conscience. In the end, effects from large escapements in the Kasilof and Kenai rivers, as well as uncertainty of escapements in the Susitna River, may have steadied fate.
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